Food writing isn’t my forte. I simply prefer food eating.
Since I like just about everything, to me, every dish tastes either yummy or delicious or even scrumptious, if I’m feeling particularly verbal.
So I’ll refrain if I can from telling you just how yummy, delicious and scrumptious the food of Jordan was… but oh. Oh. Oh! It was so all of those things.
The food of Jordan – a delicious guide!
Looking for more about Jordan? Check these out!
Jordanian food culture combines everything I love about eating. Most meals I had were mezze style – a dip of this, a dollop of that, a heaping spoon of a dish you’ve never seen before (and can’t pronounce) all scooped up with a few more piping hot, salty-sweet pitas than you really should be wolfing down. Community style dining is common, so there’s much sharing and passing and tasting and ohmanthisisgood exclaiming. By the time the mains (yes, plural!) arrive, chances are you’ve already eaten your weight in dozens of flavorful appetizers.
Portion control isn’t really on the radar, so just check your diet at the border.
With dozens of tastes to choose from at each meal, Jordan is a place well-suited for naturally skinny travelers with high metabolisms. But failing that natural gift, just forget it. Eat the food in Jordan. It’s worth the extra pounds.
Chicken & rice in a big communal plate
Jordanians express their warmth and hospitality, much like Southerners, by feeding you until you can hardly stand up and walk away from the table. Think of Jordanians as Middle Eastern Paula Deens. Their sole intent is to make sure you’re full to the brim of delicious, local food.
Much of my lackadaisical Southern nature (if I ever had one) wore off in the years I lived in New York City, so it was an adjustment for me to think of each meal of the day as a full-fledged event on the itinerary – not just a biological necessity or a box to check off en route to the next activity.
Mealtime is a key thread in the social fabric of Jordanian culture.
So when you go, slow down. Enjoy every bite.
Can we talk about hummus for a minute? I have always liked this magical chickpea, tahini paste, garlic, olive oil & lemon juice puree, but in Jordan, it’s A. 1,000 times better than any hummus I ever had in the US, and B. it’s served at every meal of the day. Even breakfast.
Hummus for breakfast?
Oh yes. It didn’t take long for me to accept this new addition to my bacon & eggs routine and to decide, yes, hummus for breakfast is one of the best ideas ever. Jordan, FTW!
One night, my consulting team and I were invited to dinner at Fakhr El-Din, a swanky yet still familial restaurant in Amman’s 2nd circle. The restaurant has a reputation as one of the best in the city and is known as the place to rub shoulders with celebrities and dignitaries visiting the country.
Shanklish (or Shankleesh)
It’s also a great place to try out those elastic-waist pants you’ve been saving for a special occasion.
There are some 120 Middle Eastern favorites on the menu at Fakhr El-Din, and we must’ve had at least half of them on our dinner table. It was one of my favorite meals of the journey, I only wish I had two or three stomachs so I could’ve continued eating, eating, eating. The spread before me was one of the most impressive I’d seen… and absolutely terrifying.
How would I eat all that?
Mutabbal (or Moutabbal), roasted, pureed eggplant with garlic.
Baba ghanouj, a salad of roasted eggplant, tomatoes and onions
Not pictured – Fattoush: a chopped veggie salad w/ pieces of flatbread, olive oil, sumac and lemon juice. Labaneh: A creamy yogurt spread, probably drizzled with olive oil. DIVINE. Mansaf: Traditional dish and hallmark of Jordanian cuisine! Meat (usually goat or lamb) cooked in a a tangy fermented dried yogurt sauce and eaten with bread & hands from the community plate.
And Kofta, Zarb, Dawali, Shrak, Falafel, Makloubeh, Wara’ Enab, Bagdonsyyeh, Khobbeizeh, Makdous… I could go on and on and on and on. Much like every single meal in Jordan!
The one glaring issue I have with Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food is the extensive use of olives. I can’t even be polite about it – I really, really, really hate olives. I can’t look at a bowl of them without feeling a bit nauseous and I can’t eat anything with bits of olive large enough to identify.
One lunchtime my intrepid guide Ibrahim and his driving sidekick Rami begged me to try a Jordanian olive.
They’re the best in the world. You must try them, Malak! Ibrahim enthused, calling me by the Arabic name for angel. How could I say no to such sweetness?
I still do not like olives.
I do enjoy olive oil though, and in Jordan – it’s a good thing. It’s perfectly acceptable to drizzle some locally produced olive oil over flatbreads and khubz (pitas), into za’atar, labaneh, over hummus… and that’s just breakfast!
Halawa, sweetened tahini infused and topped with pistachio bits
By the time dessert comes around, nothing remains but your gluttonous shame. You stare down each oncoming platter of delicate sweets like a mortal adversary. Politely, you have a nibble of each but it’s really no use. You are no match for a Jordanian dinner party!
Muhalabiyyeh, milk flan
The food in Jordan is yummy, delicious and scrumptious – no doubt. Even more spectacular than the food is the warm and welcoming hospitality. No matter where you go, someone wants to feed you mansaf or comfort you with tea or just welcome you with whatever it is they have on hand. And it’s a lovely feeling that sticks with you even after the feeling of being so full you could explode fades away.
They say if you leave Jordan without gaining weight, they’ve failed.
Looking for more fun in Jordan? Check out what else Jordan has to offer. For more food photos from Jordan, check out my Facebook album.