Before visiting the Middle East for the first time I was worried about what kind of food I might be eating. I also worried about the cultural differences and language barriers but my worrying would always come back to food. What if I didn’t like anything there? What if I offended someone by turning down food that was offered to me?
Thankfully all of that worry was for nothing. From the moment I landed in Amman, Jordan and saw many people selling fresh vegetables, fruits and fuzzy sweet green almonds at the side of the road I knew that I wouldn’t have a problem.
During my 11 days in Jordan, I toured the country with G Adventures and spent a couple days by myself in Amman. I also ate some of the best food of my life. I enjoyed everything from the best hummus imaginable, to trying falafel for the first time, eating fuzzy green almonds, and drinking gallons of tea. I never once had a food placed in front of me that I didn’t like.
Throughout my whole trip hummus was something that I enjoyed as much as possible. Of course it is a common food that I was use to having back home but also because it was so good. My favorite of the trip was on Rainbow Street in Amman at a restaurant called Sufra. Nice and creamy with a good amount of olive oil and not too much tahini. I never knew hummus could be so good.
And of course hummus often tastes best with a side of fresh pita.
The Sufra restaurant was the first place I ate in Amman so I also ordered the menu’s special of the day, which was actually the country’s national dish. Called Mansaf, I would see it served at many places on my trip. Made of lamb, rice, fermented yogurt and roasted almonds. The lamb is cooked in the yogurt sauce that makes it really moist and the roasted almonds give it a nice crunch.
I was in Jordan in April and this clearly was the time of year where fuzzy green almonds are popular. On every busy street there were vendors on the side of the road with piles of these green nuts/seeds for sale and I had never seen an almond like this before. Seemingly picked before they were ripe they were covered in downy like fibers with a green hull that had a leathery texture. The exterior, the inner shell and the inside nut that we are use to had not yet hardened all the way. The almonds were soft enough that you could bite them all the way through. We ate the whole thing, however I learned that many people will just open it up to get the nut inside. They were slightly juicy and had a fruity taste almost like an apple. I was also told that they are typically eaten with salt sprinkled on them.
Lemon and Mint drink
A popular drink on a warm day at cafes in the city was a lemon and mint drink. A simple recipe, which consists of the juice of 1-2 lemons, water, plenty of sugar and enough mint to turn the entire drink green. Add some ice and it was a very refreshing lemonade with a Jordanian spin.
Before going to Jordan I had never had falafel. It was a very good decision on my part to wait to experience them for the first time in the Middle East, as they were out of this world. In downtown Amman there is a restaurant that sits partly tucked in an alleyway called Hashem. Said to make the best falafels in the city they are one of the only restaurants open 24/7 and are so good the King often frequents there for dinner. For about $3 you can have a plate of hot falafels, fresh pita bread, hummus, tomato, onion, mint and a sweet tea. I could of eaten here every day if I had the chance.
Go Out to Dinner with Friends
In Jordan I often found that the way the serve food is catered to multiple people eating together. Often there wouldn’t be one or two dishes rather there would be many different mezze. I also found that this is a great way to try a variety things and is a much more social way of eating. A restaurant in Amman called Tawaheen al-Hawa served the mezza in an elegant yet casual setting and if you so chose you could also smoke some shisha with your meal.
Bedouin Tea and Coffee
While in Amman and touring around the country I also found myself drinking a lot of tea. Whether if it was with a meal or being offered to me as a welcome from a Bedouin on the top of a cliff in Petra I was drinking it everywhere. The tea they most commonly drink is sweet and is flavored with mint and/or sage and never had milk or cream added to it. Definitely make sure you pick up a box to bring home if you get the chance as you might find yourself craving it. Also a tip if you find yourself in a Bedouins home on most occasions they customarily will want to fill you cup at least three times if you are then finished shake your cup from side to side and your host will know that you are done. But as a warning, shaking your cup too soon can be disrespectful.
Don’t Forget the Dessert
Kanafeh is an Arab cheese pastry soaked in a honey like sweet syrup. Many places make Kanafeh in Amman, but numerous people told me that Habibah makes the best. They have various locations around the city and there will often be a line going out the door of people waiting to get a taste.
Have you tried other foods in Jordan? What would you recommend?