I don’t think I’ve ever over-eaten as much as I did while in Jordan. But looking back, I’m not even upset with myself- Jordanian food was absolutely delicious.
At one point the girls and I were so sick of over-eating we asked our guides if there was any way we could order less food at dinner.
They replied, “Uh no, not really.”
Anyway, thank god we packed loose clothing because otherwise I’m not sure if our skinny jeans would have survived.
What is Jordanian food like?
Jordanian food is very similar to Lebanese, and uses lots of Mediterranean ingredients like olive oil, garlic and lemon. Meals begin with mezze, or small-plate appetizers. Next is the main course of grilled lamb, beef chicken or kofte. Finally, you finish the meal with cardamom coffee and dessert. The style of eating is very communal and the food is healthy and light, both of which aspects I loved.
Here are the best things I ate while in Jordan. Needless to say, there was a lot of competition.
Most meals in Jordan start with mezze: tabbouleh, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, pickled vegetables, olives, hummus, fattoush, labneh and pita.
As I would continue to do in Jordan, I wildly over-stuffed myself on mezze. With homemade hummus and tabbouleh, how could you not?
Where to find it: You can try mezze at most Jordanian restaurants, but we had the one pictured at Sufra Restaurant in downtown Amman. It was excellent!
2. Grilled meats
After mezze, you move on to piles and piles of grilled meats. But more specifically, shish taouk, chicken marinated in yogurt and lemon juice and grilled on a spit, and kofta, ground meat formed into a cylindrical shape and grilled.
As you can see here, it’s charred and juicy and oh-so-delicious.
3. Chicken casserole (Fatet Djaj)
One of the best dishes I had in Jordan was Fatet Jaj. Fatet Jaj is a chicken casserole filled with rice, poached chicken and fried bread, and topped with yogurt and toasted almonds.
What I loved most about this dish was the texture; namely the juxtaposition between the fried bread and creamy yogurt. As a huge yogurt fan, this dish was one of my absolute favorites.
4. Lamb and yellow rice (Mansaf)
Almost every Jordanian we met would ask us, “Have you tried mansaf yet?” Which makes sense- mansaf is the national dish of Jordan.
Mansaf is a platter of tender lamb on the bone, yellow rice and marcona almonds, which is then drenched in hot yogurt sauce.
Jordanian food is always communal, but mansaf even more so, as you share mansaf as a table and eat it entirely with your hands.
Our guides asked us, “Do you want to eat it the real way or with a fork and knife?” Obviously, we wanted to eat it the real way.
To eat mansaf you take rice with your right hand and form it into an oval-shaped ball, which you then pop into your mouth.
As a lefty, eating with my right hand was impossible and I probably looked like a one-year-old in a highchair. But seriously, try eating with your non-dominant hand some time- it’s trippy. It almost feels like someone else is feeding you.
But in the end, mansaf was worth looking like a total fool for. So. Good.
5. Jordanian casserole (Maqluba)
Maqluba, which means upside down, is a Jordanian casserole of meat, rice, vegetables and potatoes cooked in a black cast-iron pot and flipped over on a plate.
I loved the dramatic table-side service as well as the steaming pile of carbohydrates in front of me. Maqluba felt like Middle Eastern comfort food- warm, homey and simple; the kind of dinner you’d want on a cold day.
6. Labneh (yogurt with olive oil and spices)
Out of all the mezze we tried in Jordan, the only dish I didn’t know was labneh. And what a shame that was.
Labneh is salty yogurt that is served at breakfast and in mezze. It often comes topped with olive oil and walnuts, and is especially good with za’atar and pita. I need to find labneh in the states because I would totally have it for breakfast every day.
7. Kufta with tahini sauce (Kufta bel taheenyeh)
This was by far one of the best foods I had in Jordan. This dish was made of pounded veal and tahini sauce, and topped with green peppers and potatoes. It was creamy and lemony and tangy – such a treat.
8. Homemade Pita
While in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, we met a Bedouin family who taught us how to make pita.
First you mix together flour and water, and knead it into dough. Then you bury the dough under charcoal and let it cook. Once it’s done, you dust off the charcoal and eat it.
The bread was so earthy and nuanced in flavor- I loved the charcoal taste that remained as well. It was especially good with piping hot sweet tea.
While I’m not a huge fan of sweets, I really enjoyed osmaliyeh. Osmaliyeh is shredded phylo dough filled with rosewater cream and topped with crushed pistachio.
I loved how light and airy it was, with a touch of sweetness. And while I enjoy baklava, it so heavy and cloyingly sweet; honestly I’d prefer osmaliyeh any day.
Have you tried Jordanian food before? Which of these dishes sounds best to you?
I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, but as always, all opinions are my own.