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Mezze Jordan food

10 Foods to Try in Jordan

by Claudia Looi

May 08, 2019

5 minute read

Jordan is best known as the home of the ancient kingdom of Petra and the sandstone mountains of Wadi Rum desert. It’s a country of fascinating sights, and home to extraordinary landscapes. Bordering Israel, Syria, Palestine, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Jordan is one of the safest and most stable countries in the Middle East.

Like most tourists, I went to Jordan to experience and take in the incredible sights of Petra, Wadi Rum, Amman Citadel, and Jerash ruins. What struck me after a week in Jordan was the food. Here are 10 Jordanian foods (one is a drink) that deserve honorable mentions and are worth trying.

  1. Mezze

    If you have eaten in Turkish, Lebanese or Jordanian restaurants, you may be familiar with mezze. Mezze is a selection of small dishes like dips and salads. The most common mezze are hummus, tabbouleh, and aubergine. They pair well with grilled lamb, chicken, fish or beef and can be a meal in itself.

  2. Zarb

    The Peruvians have their traditional Pachamanca, Maoris in New Zealand have Hangi, and in Jordan, the Bedouins are proud to present Zarb. Zarb like Pachamanca and Hangi is a dish slow-cooked in an underground pit.

    Lamb or chicken and vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and zucchini are placed in a three-tiered grill with a lid. The grill is buried underground, sealed with layers of sand, and left to cook for two to three hours. When it comes time to serve, the Bedouins use a shovel to remove the layers of sand and retrieve the three-tiered grill from underground.

    All Bedouin camps in Wadi Rum serve Zarb for dinner. I had Zarb twice in two different Bedouin camps in Wadi Rum.

  3. Shawarma

    Eating shawarma at Reem in Second Circle Amman is close to compulsory when visiting Jordan. This old establishment is a sidewalk food stand (no seating) frequented by locals and tourists looking for cheap, quick bites.

    Shawarma is made of thinly sliced grilled meat, onions, tomatoes, and tahini sauce rolled in a pita. It may not have originated from Jordan, but Reem is one of the first food stands that specialized in shawarma since 1976.

    Mansaf Jordan National Dish

  4. Mansaf

    Our driver in Jordan invited us to his home in Amman for mansaf. He said we couldn’t go home to America without eating the Jordanian national dish. Mansaf is for every occasion and found in all types of celebrations. Traditionally, everyone uses their hands to dig into the big platter of lamb, rice, pine nuts, and yogurt (also known as jameed). Shrak, the Bedouin flatbread is served alongside mansaf.

  5. Za’atar mana’eesh

    Jordan was part of the ancient spice trade routes where traders from Asia, the Middle East, and Europe stopped to rest and trade. Today, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, saffron, ginger, and many more exotic spices traded during the spice trade era are found in many Jordanian dishes.

    When in Jordan, you must try pastries with za’atar, Jordan’s most essential spice blend of thyme, toasted sesame seeds, salt, and sumac. I ate lots of za’atar mana’eesh for breakfast. It’s a flatbread topped with za’atar and olive oil. Besides za’atar mana’eesh, some restaurants have za’atar croissants too.
    Halva with almonds

  6. Halawa

    Halawa or halva is made of sesame seed paste, flavored with pistachio, almond or chocolate. It’s Jordanians' favorite dessert. I was surprised to find it on the breakfast buffet table at the Fairmont Amman.

  7. Musakhan

    Musakhan is a Palestinian dish that is also popular in Jordan. It consists of chicken cooked with sumac, pita, caramelized onions, and olives. I tried musakhan at the restaurant in Petra Moon Hotel.

  8. Falafel

    Travelers that are vegetarians won’t go hungry in Jordan. Besides the delicious vegetarian-friendly mezze dishes of beans, salads, hummus, there is falafel. Falafel is a delicious mix of ground chickpeas, coriander, parsley and spices that are shaped into balls and deep fried until crispy. You’ll find falafel stuffed in pita pockets or served with tahini.

    You can try falafel in Amman’s oldest falafel joint - Falafel Al Quds on Rainbow Street. Like Reem, the shawarma stand in Second Circle Amman, Falafel Al Quds is a tiny no frills, no seating food stand that has stood the test of time.

  9. Kofta kebabs

    Jordanian barbecue meat on skewers, also known as kofta kebabs are flavorful and filling comfort food for meat lovers. It’s usually served alongside salads, flatbreads on a platter, and mezze on the side. The Jordanian kofta kebabs are made with minced lamb or beef.

    dalah coffee jordan

  10. Jordanian coffee

    Coffee is probably worth mentioning here even though it's a drink. Drinking coffee is a daily ritual in Jordan. Coffee is available 24/7 in Jordanian homes. Every household has a traditional Arabic coffee pot (dalah), demitasse and a tray of sweets.

    Jordanian coffee is like no other. It is flavored with cardamom and is watered down compared to strong Turkish coffee.

    I prefer the robust, Jordanian-style cardamom-flavored Turkish coffee. This coffee is prepared with finely ground coffee, and it is unfiltered. You’re bound to eat the grounds too when drinking the unfiltered coffee. A good server will ask if you would like lots of sugar, little or no sugar in your coffee. Sugar is added in the Turkish coffee decanter during the brewing process.

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