Jordan’s most famous traditional dish and a nationally celebrated pride is mansaf. It is enlightening to know that Jordanians go back to solid Bedouin roots, from which the concept of mansaf has seen life. The very fatty dish consists of rice stirred with heavy domestic margarine, cooked separately from the thick yogurt essence, and is stirred until boiled. Big lumps of meat are added to the yogurt to cook until it’s well-done. Bedouins would use camel or sheep meat, but nowadays, some use calf meat, and others substitute it with chicken, but Jordanians would make teasing jokes about the later, for as the famous Jordanian saying goes: “Chicken mansaf won’t satisfy a true Jordanian.”
Mulukhiyah (or Molokhia)
Jordanians and Palestinians have been living together for decades, sharing blood, traditions and, of course, delicious recipes. Mulukhiyah originated in Egypt from the time of the Pharaohs. Back then it was called mulukiyah, the food of the kings, and was only to be later adapted by Palestinians. Mulukhiyah is a rather odd looking dish that doesn’t quite please the eye on first sight, but will instantly have you head over heels from the first bite. It consists of a green herb, mulukhiyah, cooked until slimy, with rice and chicken aside. Palestinians and Jordanians would chop the herb so fine that the mulukhiyah soup would look intact, Syrians and Lebanese, on the other hand, would keep the leaflets rather rough and bulky. You should attempt to have Mulukhiyah with a squeeze of lemon juice, and, if daring enough, a small tablespoon of hot chili sauce.
Truth be told, warak enab is almost everyone’s favorite food in Jordan. It is basically grape leaves stuffed with a special dressing of rice and meat, and cooked in a giant pot, sometimes alongside other stuffed vegetables, like aubergines, zucchinis, green peppers, and as Iraqis like to add to it, tomatoes, onions, and carrots! As simple as it sounds, this dish takes lots of effort and time to prepare, but it always draws a smile to everyone’s face once it’s served.
Translating to the “turned over” dish, this particular food is more interesting to watch being cooked than eaten. The ingredients are nothing out of the ordinary: rice, potatoes, chicken, and aubergine or cauliflower, all stirred in a big pot. When the cooking is done comes the magical moment; children would gather to watch the Jordanian mother flip the huge pot over a flat plate and then remove it, revealing what looks like a neat cake of rice and chicken. Maqluba is delicious with olive-soaked salad or cold fresh yogurt on the side.
Mujadara is a healthy protein-filled dish which is easy to prepare. Raw rice and lentils are cooked together and seasoned with lots of cumin and spices. Some like to add partially burned onions atop their plates, but it is best eaten with yogurt, salad, or both.
Musakhan is another dish orchestrated with both the genuine Jordanian and Palestinian tastebuds. It is yet another odd-looking food which the kind people of Palestine cannot keep only for themselves. Upon first look, Musakhan would look like a rather incomprehensible pile of bread. It is basically nothing more than taboon bread, soaked in olive oil and decorated with heaps of onions and sour spices with out-of-the-oven chicken on the side. At last, when you dare to take the first bite, the hideous vision will melt away into sweet and sour goodness in your mouth.
The famous lentil soup is the official sponsor of every winter in Jordan. Whenever it is cold and rainy outside, Jordanian mothers would immediately start preparing lentil soup—it even goes down as the most ordered dish on restaurant menus during the winter season. This cozy cup of warmth will immediately heat you up, enhance your energy, and strengthen your immune system. Try it hot with toasted bread, a squeeze of lemon juice, and green onions.
The debate discussing the origins of Kobbeh has long been dropped. Arabs have no interest in claiming a cuisine dish as their own, yet different Arabs would cook it differently. Kobbeh, for example, is a light fulfilling food consisting of meat, groats, and special peppers. Whether it be fried, baked, or eaten raw, formed into a lemon-shaped sphere or flattened in a large pan; it is just a matter of taste. In Jordan, you will commonly be introduced to fried balled-shaped Kobbeh, eaten mostly as a starter, mezzeh, or as a side dish.
This is an old Jordanian-oriented dish, eaten mostly by people in North Jordan. Some Jordanians might not even recognize it, nonetheless, it is a traditional Jordanian dish deeply rooted to the country life. Makmoura, meaning buried, is exactly what it sounds like. Boiled chicken and onions are buried under a thick blanket of dough and cooked in the oven until well-done. It is later served in triangle pieces, exactly like cake.
Rashouf is another deeply oriented food tightly linked to the Jordanian culture, and is also served as a winter dish. Adding the same yogurt essence used in cooking mansaf to a blend of lentils, groats, and wheat, is it cooked over medium heat and served with sour pickles and vegetable. Careful though, as beneficial as this dish is, it is also very high in protein and fibers, so don’t eat it and take a nap.