Jordanian food is the best food that I’ve had in my life. Growing up around Mediterranean food, I realized that the cuisine in Jordan perfectly aligned with my taste buds. Although Jordanian cuisine is much different from the Greek & Italian food I grew up with, it had very similar elements and also very different elements.
Right now in Arabic we just concluded our Jordanian food unit, so what better a time to tell and show you what you must try when you get here. Not only are there a plethora of absolutely amazing restaurants but if you choose to live with a host family they will introduce you to the staples of Jordanian cuisine. There are so many foods that there is no way for me to even have enough time or space to explain them all but I will name a few of my favorites and what I would consider the “must-trys” of Jordan.
My first taste of Jordan was through Falafel. I have had falafel both in the US and in Ireland and let me tell you, it doesn’t even touch the falafel here. It melts in your mouth, has the perfect crunch, and pairs so well with tahini or hummus. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it because I just wanted to eat it hot and fresh, but I recommend the following places for falafel:
- Al-Quds on Rainbow Street (they only have falafel sandwiches w/ hummus and veggies)
- Hashem (located downtown, wasat al balad)
- Abu Omar, also near Rainbow street (my favorite!!!)
Next on the list of AMAZING cuisine, mansaf. This is probably considered one of the most famous Jordanian meals and is notorious for its yogurt sauce that will quite literally put you to sleep. Everytime we have eaten it everyone ends up taking about a 2 hour nap and then wakes up for coffee and other sweets (helowiat). It consists of rice, chicken or lamb (lamb is my favorite), and is topped with the yogurt sauce and pine nuts. It is one of my absolute favorite meals. The best I have had was made by my family, but the second best was at Al Quds located downtown (not the one on Rainbow street, there are two).
The next food item is a given, hummus. I will never go back to Sabra ever again. The second I get home, I will make my own. The hummus here is like a delicious, garbanzo bean clay. Just about every restaurant has the most fantastic hummus so here I don’t have one that I would say is the best. However, Hashem is known for its hummus and its low prices and history. Below is a picture of hummus from Hashem downtown.
One of the most underrated elements of Jordan is its fresh juice. There are so many shops that make amazing and fresh combos and even turn them into slushies and smoothies. My favorite place is called The Pomegranate House (bait alraman). I got a mango and strawberry fruit slushie and it was so delicious and refreshing, they let you mix so many flavors and you can even get juice, each drink is only 1JOD here!
Another staple beverage is turkish coffee. I would consider myself a coffee connoisseur but it did take me some time to get used to its flavor. They add cardamom to it and sometimes it can be SO strong, that’s why it’s usually served in small cups. I usually stick to black tea with basil and honey (merremia) or nescafe, but it is worth a try and is definitely an experience. Coffee and tea is served virtually after every meal with sweets and everyone will socialize and spend time talking. Below is a picture of the delicious turkish coffee and juice I got from Cafe Jafra on Rainbow street, a cute little spot with great juice and great food.
I mentioned falafel before, so it is also very important to mention what is often ate with falafel. From my experience there is often bread, olives, tomato, fool (beans and veggie paste-like substance), fatteh (like hummus with pine-nuts and bread), eggs, zatar (the most delicious spice EVER!), olive-oil, peppers, carrots etc. One morning my host parents surprised us with this as our breakfast and it is by far my favorite breakfast here.
The last savory item I will mention with a picture is shawarma. I go to the “Best Shawarma in the World” restaurant on rainbow street and so far that has been my favorite but I know there are so many other places. However, be mindful of eating shawarma from places that are hot because the mayo can go bad and make you SO sick. I know a lot of people who were sick for many days as a result of this. The schwarma I got came with cayenne seasoned fries, veggies, cole-slaw, and on it was chicken, garlic mayo, pickles, veggies, and cheese. You can also add a pomegranate sauce on it.
Some other favorite savory foods of mine that I ate too quick to take pictures of are:
- Mulukhiyah: With chicken, rice, and spicy garlic lemon sauce and olive oil
- Maqluba: An upside-down rice dish with chicken, eggplant, tomato, potato, and sometimes even cauliflower
- Kifta: meat baked in the oven with tomatoes on-top
As far as desserts and sweets go, my two favorites and what seems to be the most popular at night here is either bahlawa (which you may know as baklava), kanafeh, or booza (ice cream!)
Baklava is pretty well known so I’ll skip that but once you have kanafeh you never go back. kanafeh is a delicious sweet cheese dessert topped with a crispy pastry, sweet sugar syrup, and nuts, it both melts in your mouth and is crispy at the same time. I have had it about 5 times here, and would recommend it with ice cream. there is an amazing ice cream parlor downtown called Bekdash where they show you how they churn and mix their ice cream into a stringy, doughy texture, and they make a song out of their churning with you! Below I have included the ice cream from bekdash and some kanafeh from Jerusalem, but in Amman I highly recommend habiba (one of the best and oldest shops for kanafeh).
I really could go on and on about food. It is one of the most amazing parts of Jordan because there is so much to try and explore. So much of the social interaction and bonding here and all over the world is through food and there honestly is no better way to experience culture!
Happy eating! SaHtiin (bon appetit!)