Jordan has a very varied cuisine nurtured by a Bedouin past, and the influence of its neighboring countries, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. Also, because Jordan was a passage for merchants' caravans for centuries, it has received gastronomic influences from other places much farther away, such as India. It is a very healthy, tasty, mildly spicy cuisine in which special attention is paid to presentation.
Bread, or al-jubz, in Jordan generally has a round shape and is traditionally used by Arabs as a utensil to eat with. In rural areas, it is usually cooked in a wood oven and is often flavoured with zataar, a very popular spice mix in the middle east, consisting of thyme, sumac, sesame seeds and salt. Sometimes it is flavoured with herbs such as marjoram, oregano, hyssop, cumin or fennel. A traditional Bedouin bread, unleavened flatbread, consists of a thin sheet of dough that is cooked over a metallic dome previously heated on the wood fire, and it takes very little time to prepare.
Chickpeas are the basis of this other appetizer that can be found both on street stalls and restaurants. The falafel is a kind of chopped chickpea meatball that once cooked with some vegetables and spices is deep fried and served with a yoghurt sauce, usually wrapped in pita bread.
Another excellent speciality that you can not miss is the Fattah, a crusty bread that is sometimes fried and served covered with hummus and aubergines and dressed with a mixture of yoghurt, garlic and lemon.
Starting the day with a good breakfast is very important. The ful is one of the most particular dishes of the Jordanian breakfast, and by mid-morning it can be found in many of the local restaurants. It is a high-calorie soup made with a puree of beans and seasoned with garlic and lemon thyme; Ideal fuel for a long day.
It is not an easy dish to find in most restaurants, but it is one of the most typical peasant recipes in the area. The kuftah consists of mashed lamb meat, cooked in the oven in a tahini-based sauce and stewed with tomatoes and onions.
One of the most well-known and appreciated desserts in the Jordanian culture is the Kunafah. Baked in the oven, it is a cake made from a cream cheese, perfumed with rose water and covered with threads of dough on which a good amount of syrup is poured before being baked
Undoubtedly the most traditional dish of the Jordanian culture is the mansaf, to the point that it has come to be considered the national dish of the country. It is a dish of Bedouin origin so you can also find it in many of its neighbouring countries. Its main ingredient is lamb, which is served on a base of rice flavoured with turmeric and dressed with a yoghurt called jameed. The mansaf is usually presented in the centre of the table, and tradition dictates that diners take their share directly from it with their right hand.
Lamb also features in this very popular dish called maqlubah. It is a meat stew accompanied by spices and vegetables; generally aubergine and cauliflower. It is served on a bed of musakhkan, a kind of Arabic bread stuffed with meat and seasoned with sumac, onion oil and toasted pine nuts.
Also called mazahh in some areas, this dish consists of a series of appetizers combining several of the most typical specialities of the country. Among them you will find hummus, a paste of chickpeas and sesame dressed with olive oil, the mutabbal, similar to hummus but made from a base of aubergines and waraq inab, vine leaves stuffed with rice and minced meat.
As in most Arab countries, Jordanian sweets are usually made from honey, pistachios, almonds, nuts and pine nuts. Among the great number of delights, one of the most delicious is Qatayif: a kind of fried or baked pancake stuffed with nuts, spices, coconut and cream cheese. Another is the Baklava, known throughout the Middle East.