International Cooking: Food from Jordan

Jordan is located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe, with the Dead Sea to the west. The region has been inhabited since the Paleolithic period, and over time has seen the rule of many empires including the Romans, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Ottomans.

During World War I, there was an armed uprising by the Arabs against the Ottoman Empire, known as the Great Arab Revolt. The Greater Syrian region, which Jordan was a part of, was partitioned by Britain and France. The region that is now Jordan became known as the Emirate of Transjordan, which became a British protectorate.

In 1946, Jordan gained independence and became known by its full modern-day name: the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Jordan captured and annexed the West Bank, a present-day Palestinian territory. Later, Jordan renounced its claim on the territory and became the second Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

Jordan has remained mostly unscathed by the violence that has affected the Middle East over the past few decades, and has therefore become a popular haven for refugees. There are thought to be over 2 million Palestinian refugees and over 1 million Syrian refugees residing in the country, as well as thousands of Christians fleeing religious persecution in Iraq. The country still accepts refugees but the influx has put a strain on resources and infrastructure.

Jordan has a high Human Development Index, with a relatively small economy that investors find appealing due to the skilled workforce. It’s also a popular tourist destination.

What Do People Eat in Jordan?

Food in Jordan has many similarities to that in the surrounding Middle Eastern countries. Some popular dishes that are known internationally include hummus, tabbouleh, and falafel.

The most common types of meat are lamb, beef, chicken, and sometimes goat and camel are used. Pork would be rare because the majority of the country is Muslim.

Rice is a firm staple in Jordanian meals, either as part of a dish or as a side. Yogurt is also very common and may be served on the side or used as an ingredient. Often, this will be in the form of jameed, which is yogurt that has been dried to form a ball. It is typically made from sheep or goat milk.

Jordan is one of the largest producers of olives in the world, so olive oil is the main cooking oil used. Dishes are seasoned with a range of herbs and spices, as well as tomato, onion, garlic, and lemon. Za’atar is particularly popular; it is a spice blend made from sumac, sesame seeds, and herbs.

What I Made

Scroll down to read about other popular Jordanian dishes I didn’t make!

Mint Lemonade

Mint Lemonade

Mint lemonade is popular in a lot of countries in the region. It’s made from lemon juice, sugar, water, and fresh mint leaves, combined in a blender. This was great and I can see it being a really refreshing drink on a hot day.

The recipe I used is from Makes and Takes.

Qatayef Asafiri (Mini Pancakes with Mascarpone Cream and Pistachios)

Qatayef Asafiri (Mini Pancakes with Mascarpone Cream and Pistachios)

These cute little pancakes are popular in many Middle Eastern countries and are usually made for Ramadan. They are filled with a mixture of mascarpone and cream, then dipped in ground pistachios. A rose and orange blossom-flavored syrup is drizzled over before serving.

First I made the syrup so that it would have time to cool. I heated sugar, water, and a little lemon juice in a saucepan until the sugar melted and the mixture thickened a bit. I stirred in some orange blossom water and rose water, then set it aside to let it cool.

My pancakes were made from flour, semolina, sugar, yeast, baking powder, baking soda, water, and a little orange blossom and rose water. I found the combination of rising agents interesting and I’d like to experiment with cutting them down, but since I was making this for the first time I followed the recipe.

After letting the batter rest, I started cooking the pancakes. They are intended to be small and thin enough that they can cook through without flipping. I had to add a little more water to achieve the consistency described in the recipe, but ultimately I think my pancakes came out pretty well.

While the pancakes cooled a bit I made the filling by beating together mascarpone, cream, confectioners’ sugar, orange blossom water, and rose water. Then I ground up some pistachios in my spice grinder.

These are actually meant to be more like a horn shape; you fold the pancake and only fill the opening of one half. The recipe image illustrates this better than mine. Then you dip the filling side into the pistachios. Right before serving, you drizzle the syrup over the top. You could also serve the syrup on the side to allow people to choose how much they want to add.

These tasted really good; I loved the combination of orange blossom and rose water. Neither was overpowering like they so often can be.

The recipe I used for these is from Jordan News.

Al-Rashoof (Lentil and Yogurt Soup)

Al-Rashoof (Lentil and Yogurt Soup)

Al-rashoof is a popular soup, traditionally served in winter. It’s made mostly from brown lentils and yogurt–specifically, jameed. I didn’t have jameed, so I substituted with Greek yogurt.

First I cooked the lentils, rice, and some chopped onion in water. When everything was cooked through, I added some Greek yogurt. I also added cornstarch (mixed into the yogurt), which the recipe recommended if using yogurt instead of jameed.

To top the soup, I sautéd some sliced onion in ghee and olive oil until golden. I used the onions as a garnish and drizzled over some of the fat they cooked in.

Although this was very simple, it tasted pretty good. I would like to try with the jameed some time just to see what it’s like.

The recipe I used is from I Love Arabic Food.

Mansaf (Lamb and Rice with Yogurt Sauce)

Mansaf (Lamb and Rice with Yogurt Sauce)

Mansaf is Jordan’s national dish. It consists of a layer of torn flatbread, then rice, followed by chunks of beef, a yogurt sauce, and optional garnishes of herbs and nuts. Traditionally, I think jameed would be used instead of regular yogurt, though this particular recipe called for yogurt.

I started cooking the meat first. Lamb is traditional, and that’s what I used, but you could also use beef. I let it simmer in water with some onion, bay leaves, and cardamom pods.

Once the meat was done, I set it aside and began working on the other components of the dish, which required the broth from the meat.

For the rice, I started by toasting it in ghee and olive oil for a minute or so. Then I added some of my lamb broth, salt, and a bit of turmeric. I covered the saucepan and let it cook on fairly low heat until the rice was done.

While the rice was cooking, I started making the yogurt sauce. I combined Greek yogurt and cornstarch with some of the lamb broth and let the mixture simmer gently on the stove for a little while. Then I stirred in the cooked lamb pieces.

To assemble, I started by dipping torn pieces of flatbread into lamb broth and placing them on the bottom of the plate. I topped that with rice, and followed with the lamb and yogurt sauce. This recipe suggested parsley and toasted almonds as garnishes, so I added those.

I have to say, this was really good! The rice tasted delicious after cooking in the lamb broth; it was some of the best rice I’ve ever had. The lamb with the yogurt sauce was great too; this is something else I would like to try making with jameed one day.

This recipe is from Fufu’s Kitchen.

Kaek Bread Sandwich (Sesame Seed Roll with Egg, Cheese, Chili Sauce, and Za’atar)

Kaek Bread Sandwich (Sesame Seed Roll with Egg, Cheese, Chili Sauce, and Za'atar)

This sandwich is particularly popular in Jordan’s capital, Amman. The bread is a variation of kaek bread, a type of sesame-coated bread shaped like bagels and common in the Middle East. The filling consists of triangles of soft, spreadable cheese, baked eggs, chili sauce, and za’atar.

First, I made the bread for my sandwiches. I followed a kaek bread recipe and just shaped the dough into rolls instead of bagels. The dough includes flour, powdered milk, salt, baking soda, yeast, olive oil, and warm water. Before baking, I brushed the rolls with an egg wash and topped with sesame seeds.

The bread recipe I used is from Chef Tariq.

In Amman, the eggs are usually baked in their shells. I decided to boil mine instead. I used Laughing Cow cheese which looks exactly the same as the type used in the video I watched for reference, though it’s possible the taste is different. I spread it on the bread, then I topped it with boiled egg slices, store-bought chili sauce, and za’atar.

This sandwich was amazing! The bread was great and I enjoyed what I thought was a rather unusual combination of fillings.

I wasn’t able to find a specific recipe for this, but I did find a video on Migrationology which I used to help recreate it.

  • Zarb – a selection of marinated meats and vegetables that are cooked underground, usually served with rice and other sides such as tabbouleh.
  • Makmourah – a pie made with chicken and onions (though other meat can be used). The top can consist of multiple thin layers of dough.
  • Cha3acheal – no, the 3 is not a typo as far as I can tell. This is apparently how the name of this dish is translated into the Roman (English) alphabet. This dish is made by combining eggs, cooked lentils, and onion with flour to form a sticky dough. The dough is broken up and boiled in water to make dumplings, which are served in a yogurt sauce.
  • Mo’ajjanat – small oven-baked pies that can be filled with various types of cheese.
  • Lazagyat – a sweet made from thin crispy dough coated with ghee and sugar. Various other seasonings may be added such as spices and dried fruit.

Final Thoughts

This week was pretty good! My favorite food from Jordan was the kaek bread sandwich but the mansaf was delicious too.

Next week, I will be cooking food from Kazakhstan.

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