There is wide variety of techniques used in Jordanian cuisine ranging from baking, sautéeing and grilling to stuffing of vegetables (carrots, leaves, eggplants, etc.), meat, and poultry. Also common in Jordanian cuisine is roasting or preparing foods with special sauces.
As one of the largest producers of olives in the world, olive oil is the main cooking oil in Jordan. Herbs, garlic, onion, tomato sauce and lemon are typical flavours found in Jordan. The herbs Za'atar and Sumac grow wild in Jordan and are closely identified with Jordanian cuisine. Yogurt is commonly served alongside food and is a common ingredient itself, in particular, Jameed, a form of dried yogurt is unique to Jordanian cuisine and a main ingredient in Mansaf the national dish of Jordan, and a symbol in Jordanian culture for generosity.
Internationally known foods which are common and popular everyday snacks in Jordan include hummus, which is a puree of chick peas blended with tahini, lemon, and garlic and Falafel a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas. A typical mezze includes foods such as koubba maqliya, labaneh, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, olives and pickles. Bread, Rice, Freekeh, Bulgur (bulghur) all have a role in Jordanian cuisine.
Popular desserts include as baklava, knafeh, halva and qatayef a dish made specially for Ramadan, in addition to seasonal fruits such as watermelons, figs and cactus pear which are served in summer.
Turkish coffee and tea flavored with mint or sage are almost ubiquitous in Jordan. Arabic coffee is also usually served on more formal occasions. Arak, an aniseed flavoured spirit is also drunk with food.
Food culture and traditions
Jordanian cuisine is part of Levantine cuisine and shares many traits and similarities with the cuisine of Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, often with some local variations. More generally Jordanian cuisine is influenced by historical connections to the cuisine of Turkey and the former Ottoman Empire. Jordanian cuisine is also influenced by the cuisines of groups who have made a home for themselves in modern Jordan including, Circassians, Armenians, Palestinians, Syrians and Iraqis.
Food is a very important aspect of Jordanian culture. In villages, meals are a community event with immediate and extended family present. In addition, food is commonly used by Jordanians to express their hospitality and generosity. Jordanians serve family, friends, and guests with great pride in their homes; no matter how modest their means. A 'Jordanian invitation' means that you are expected to bring nothing and eat everything.
Most of the celebrations in Jordan are exceptionally diverse in nature and quite festive at the same time. Each celebration is marked with dishes from Jordanian cuisine spread out and served to the guests. There are many traditional small gatherings in Jordan too; even in those gatherings a lot of meals are served. Customs such as weddings, birth of a child, funerals, birthdays and specific religious and national ceremonies such as Ramadan and Jordan's independence day all call for splendid food to be served to guests. To celebrate the birth of a child, Karawiya, a caraway flavoured pudding is commonly served to guests.
- Athan Al-Shayeb: Meaning 'the ears of the old gray-haired man'. Is a pasta or jiaozi dish that has been described as a kind of local variation on ravioli. After being stuffed with ground beef and spices, thin wheat dough parcels are cooked in Jameed and served hot in this sauce. Another name for this dish is Shishbarak.
- Bamya: Okra cooked with tomato sauce and onions, served with rice and lamb.
- Burghul Ahmar: Bulgur cooked in tomato sauce and served with poultry.
- Burghul Bzeit: Bulgur cooked in olive oil and served with poultry.
- Fasoulya Beyda: White beans cooked in tomato sauce and served with rice.
- Fasoulya Khadra: Green beans cooked in tomato sauce and served with rice.
- Fatteh: Stack of khubz bread, topped by strained yogurt, steamed chickpeas and olive oil that are crushed and mixed together.
- Freekeh: Served with poultry or meat. Meat is fried in oil and braised with water, salt, and cinnamon bark. Then dried coriander is stirred in with freekeh and is cooked.
- Galayet Bandora: Tomatoes sauteed and stewed with garlic, olive oil, salt, and topped with pine nuts, it can be served with rice but is more commonly eaten with bread in Jordan.
- Kebab roasted or grilled: Also known as Mashawi. A mixed grill of barbecued meats such as Kebab and Shish taouk.
- Kofta b'bandoora: Spiced, ground meat baked in tomato sauce and served with rice.
- Kofta b'tahini: Spiced, ground meat baked in a sea of tahini, topped with thinly sliced potatoes and pine nuts and served with rice.
- Kousa Mahshi: Rice and minced meat stuffed in zucchinis. Usually served with chicken and Wara' Aynab (also called Dawali).
- Kousa Makhshi: Minced meat stuffed in zucchinis cooked in Jameed.
- Kabsa: made from a mixture of spices, rice (usually long-grain, mostly basmati), meat and vegetables.
- Maftul: Large couscous like balls, garbanzo beans and chicken pieces cooked in chicken broth.
- Malfuf: Rice and minced meat rolled in cabbage leaves.
- Mansaf: The national dish of Jordan and the most distinctive Jordanian dish. Mansaf is a traditional dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt called Jameed and served with rice or bulgur.
- Maqluba: A casserole made of layers of rice, vegetables and meat. After cooking, the pot is flipped upside-down onto the plate when served, hence the name maqluba which translates literally as "upside-down".
- Mnazale: Fried eggplant, meat, and sliced tomatoes cooked in the oven.
- Mujaddara: Lentil and rice casserole, garnished with roasted onions.
- Musaqa'h (مسقعة): Various Levantine variations of the Mediterranean dish are cooked in Jordan.
- Mulukhiyah: The leaves of Corchorus species used as a vegetable
- Musakhan: Dish composed of roasted chicken baked with onions, sumac, allspice, saffron, and fried pine nuts served over taboon bread. It is also known as Muhammar (Arabic: محمر).
- Al-rashoof الرشوف : A winter meal consisting of coarse wheat flour, Yogurt and Lentils, popular in Northern Jordan.
- Saniyat Dajaj: Chicken baked with potatoes, tomatoes, and onions with an aromatic blend of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, allspice and cardamom.
- Stuffed Baby Lamb: A popular dish in Jordan, which people enjoy as a big and heavy meal. It consists of roasted lamb, stuffed with rice, chopped onions, nuts and raisins.
- Wara' Aynab/Dawali (Dolma): Grape leaves filled with herbed, minced vegetables, meat and rice, cooked with olive oil. Sometimes called Dawali.
- Zarb: Bedouin barbecue. Meat and vegetables cooked in a large underground pit.
By far the most dominant style of eating in Jordan, mezze is the small plate, salad, appetizer, community style eating, aided by dipping, dunking and otherwise scooping with bread. Mezze plates are typically rolled out before larger main dishes.
In a typical Jordanian mezze, you might find any combination of the following dishes:
- Bagdonsyyeh: Parsley blended with tahini and lemon juice, usually served with sea food.
- Arab salad: Combines many different vegetables and spices.
- Falafel: Balls of fried chickpea flour and Middle Eastern spice. Dipped in every mezze specially the hummus. The Jordanian falafel balls tend to come in smaller sizes.
- Ful medames: Crushed fava beans served with a variety of toppings such as olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, chili pepper, sumac and more.
- Fattoush: A salad made from toasted or fried pieces of pita bread combined with mixed greens and other vegetables, such as lettuce, radish and tomato.
- Tabbouleh: Vegetarian dish traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur and onion, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Some variations add garlic or lettuce, or use couscous instead of bulgur.
- Hummus: Chick peas boiled and blended to perfect smoothness with tahini paste, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and perhaps topped with a little parsley.
- J’ibna bedhah Halloumi: Semi-soft white cheese. Not quite as salty, crumbly and dry as feta cheese, but similar.
- Khobbeizeh: Little mallow cooked with olive oil.
- Kibbeh blabaniyyeh: A minced meat and bulgur mixture similar to ordinary kubbeh, but boiled in Jordanian Jameed.
- Kibbeh Nayyeh: A minced meat and bulgur mixture similar to ordinary kubbeh, but the meat is served raw.
- Kibbeh: Herbed, minced meat covered in a crust of bulgur (crushed wheat), then fried. Shaped like an American football.
- Labaneh Jarashyyeh: Literally 'labaneh from Jerash. Creamy yogurt, so thick it can be spread on flat bread to make a sandwich.
- Makdous: Stuffed pickled eggplant, said to increase appetite.
- Manakish: Flatbread dough usually topped with olive oil and za’atar blend. Other varieties may include cheese or ground meat and in this case it's called Sfiha.
- Moutabal: Roasted, pureed potato or eggplant with garlic.
- Olive oil: One of the cornerstones of Jordanian food. For breakfast, Jordanians dip flatbread into the olive oil, then into the za'atar.
- Pickled vegetables: Jordanians enjoy pickled anything – carrots, radishes, cucumbers, cauliflower, and whatever other pickle-worthy vegetables might be around. Just about every mezze features a plate of these to add some tang and tart to the meal.
- Samosa: Fried dough balls stuffed with meat, pine nuts and onions.
- Wara' Aynab (Dolma): Vine leaves filled with herbed, minced vegetables, meat and rice.
- Za'atar: a mixture of thyme and sesame seeds. Oregano, sage, or sumac can also be mixed in.
- Zaitun: Literally olive.
- Baba ghanoush: eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and various seasonings.
- Yalanji: Plate composed of vine leaves stuffed with rice, principally.
- Tursu or (Mokhalal): A certain group of alkhdharat soak in water and salt in a pot and drawn from the air for the week such as: cucumber and cabbage, eggplant flower, carrot, radish, onion, lemon, olives, chili and beans.
- Arabic salad: Salad made of tomato, cucumber, onion, mint, olive oils and lemon juices.
- Babba ghanoush: Roasted eggplant, cut into pieces and tossed with tomatoes and onions.
- Fattoush: Chopped vegetable salad (e.g., tomatoes, cucumbers, radish, etc.) tossed with pieces of dry or fried flatbread and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and sumac.
- Olive salad: cut with carrots, green pepper, chili, and olive oil.
- Rocket salad: Rucola (arugula, rocket) leaves in Jordan are pretty large, tossed with olive oil and lemon.
- Tabbouleh: A salad of finely chopped parsley and mint turned with bulgur, tomatoes, onion and seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice.
In Jordan, meals are usually started with soups. Jordanian soups are usually named after their main ingredient such as:
- Adas soup (Surabat al-adas "Lentil Soup"): Served hot. Smashed brown, red or green lentils with chicken or meat broth and several varieties of spices. Other ingredients may include vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, celery, parsley, and onion.
- Freekeh soup (Shurabat al-farik): Served hot. Is a soup with Freekeh (green wheat), chicken or meat broth and several varieties of spices.
- Ara'yes: A word literally meaning bride, ara’yes are spice mincemeat-filled oven-baked flatbread sandwiches.
- Falafel: Fresh bread filled or wrapped with falafel, hummus, tomato and pickles.
- Managish: Taboon bread topped with za'atar and olive oil.
- Mo'ajanat: Pies filled with cheese, spinach, za'atar or beef.
- Sambusak: Fried dough balls stuffed with cheese or meat with pine nuts and onions
- Shawarma: Herbed and spiced chicken or meat on a spindle chopped into small pieces and wrapped in flat bread and served with vegetables, tahini and hot sauce.
- Sfiha: Flat bread topped with ground beef and red peppers.
- Abud: A dense, unleavened traditional Jordanian Bedouin bread baked directly in a wood fire by burying in ash and covering with hot embers.
- Ka'ak: Is a traditional Jordanian bread made mostly in a large leaf or ring-shape and is covered with sesame seeds.
- Karadeesh: Is a traditional Jordanian bread made from corn.
- Khubz (Pita): Literally, “generic” bread. Bread with pockets.
- Taboon bread: a flatbread wrap used in many cuisines. It is traditionally baked in a Tabun oven and eaten with different fillings. Taboon bread, also known as laffa bread, is sold as street food, stuffed with hummus, falafel or shaved meat
- Shrak: Is a traditional Bedouin bread that is popular in Jordan and the region as a whole. The bread is thrown to great thinness before being tossed onto a hot iron griddle called Saj that’s shaped like an inverted wok. Also known as markook.
- Arabic coffee (Gahwa Sada): is typically the domain of the Bedouins and consists of ground fire-roasted beans and cardamom drawn thin and served in espresso-sized servings.
- Ereq Soos: Known as Sus.
- Lime-mint juice: Consists of Lemon and mint.
- Qamar Eddine: Apricot juice. Usually served in Ramadan.
- Sahlab: boiled milk with starch, covered with smashed coconut and cinnamon.
- Shaneeneh: Is a special refreshing Jordanian beverage, consists of salty-sour aged goat milk yogurt. Served cold.
- Tamar Hindi: Tamarind juice.
- Tea: Flavored with na'na or meramiyyeh.
- Turkish-style coffee: It is significantly stronger than its Arabic brother. Water is heated in a long-handled metal cup and the grounds (and any sugar) are mixed in as the combination is brewed over a gas flame to bubbling.
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