Arab Street Food, with a twist: Culinary in Jordan
Like all countries in the Middle East, locals in Jordan place a great emphasis on food - particularly traditional dishes. However, whilst most of the international current culinary scene puts the emphasis on gourmet fare, cutting-edge creations or local food (influenced by Arabic culture) Jordan doesn’t conform to this idea.That’s why, whether you’re visiting Amman, Petra, Wadi Rum or Aqaba, you will find traditional food that is gourmet-inspired, as well as local versions of common Middle Eastern dishes. And that’s before you even get started on the unique creations of Jordan itself.Today, we’re looking at cuisine in Jordan - what meat-eaters, fish-lovers and vegetarians can expect to enjoy when making a trip to this part of the world. And, don’t worry, there will be plenty of tips for those who have a sweet tooth!A Jordanian meal: celebration for every palateWhat Food do they eat in Jordan?Mansaf: one of the most beloved dishes in Jordanian cuisine, mansaf is the country’s national dish. Commonly eaten at family celebrations and festivals, it has deep roots in Bedouin culture and, historically, was made with camel meat.Today, you’ll find it to be a dish of tender lamb with ‘jameed’ (fermented sheep’s milk) then seasoned with a spice mix (which includes cumin, cardamon, paprika, and cloves) then finally decorated with pine nuts and almonds.Jordanian MansafMaqluba: you’ll understand why this dish means ‘upside down’ in Arabic when you see it - it’s a combination of meat, fried rice and vegetables which are cooked and then flipped over, to form a very impressive shape!Maqluba plateKofta Kebab: this is a popular Middle Eastern street food, made with ground beef, spices and green herbs usually served with a yoghurt-garlic sauce and flatbread. Many people who tried kebab in other countries say the Jordanian version is among the best: not too spicy, not too salty, and always juicy enough; arab grill at its finest.Kofta KebabHummus: This quintessential Levantine dip is perfect ‘on the go’ food, as well as at a sit-down meal. Made of garbanzo beans, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and tahini, it’s incredibly delicious and, even better, full of protein. It’s also a firm favourite with vegetarians and vegans - and you’ll find it on every street corner across Jordan.The best Hummus is in JordanFalafel: Just like hummus, these crunchy, flavorful fried chick-pea balls are mouthfuls of heaven - every chef has their own blend of spices when making them and, served on a plate or in pita bread, they make for a great lunch.Fresh Falafel balls in pita bread with chopped salad, hot peppers, lemon, and tahini sauceFuul: This fantastic fava bean stew, cooked with olive oil and cumin is eaten at home and on the street, and is a delicious and healthy option for when you’ve had enough of hummus and falafel! It’s often served with a side of radishes, tahini, mint or hard-boiled eggs.Hummus, Fuul and EggsTabbouleh: A wonderful Levantine salad, made up of bulgar (a whole grain) cucumber, tomatoes, mint and chopped parsley. It’s then seasoned with olive oil and lemon - and it’s very refreshing, especially on hot summer days.Tabbouleh SaladKnafeh: This Middle Eastern dessert is perfect for anyone that loves sweet treats - made with spun pastry (‘knafeh’), drenched in a sweet syrup and layered with cheese, nuts and pistachio, this is a must-order whilst you’re travelling in Jordan.JordanianKnafehBasbousa: also known as harissa or namoura, this rich, dense cake is made of semolina, yoghurt, rose blossom and coconut and is perfectly served with a cup of tea or Arabic coffee.Great candy. Arab BasbousaCan I drink alcohol in Jordan?It’s certainly possible to drink alcohol in Jordan, and even though it’s a Muslim country you’ll be able to purchase beer, wine and spirits at bars in hotels and sometimes in restaurants.However, public drunkenness is considered a serious ‘no no’ in this country and if you are with locals, or invited to a family home, expect to be offered a range of soft drinks, including:Limonana: this really is the ‘national drink’ of Jordan - and it’s fantastic, particularly in the summer. Peeled lemons, sugar, mint and ice are all crushed together, before being drunk as a ‘slushy’.Limonana - the local freshenerArabic coffee: you can’t travel to Jordan without indulging in Arabic coffee. What makes it so different is the spices that are added to the lightly-roasted coffee beans - cardamom, cloves and saffron. It’s a very complex and fragrant flavour, and rather less bitter than ‘western’ coffee.Traditional Arab Tea: both black tea and mint tea are drinks that are served on all kinds of occasions in Jordan. Mint tea is often paired with sweet treats and black tea usually comes heavily sweetened (ask if you want it ‘just black’).South Jordan RestaurantsPetra and Wadi MusaReem Baladi: if you’re looking for a varied menu and generous portions of food, come to Reem Baladi. The lamb stew and camel meat are both very popular, and there are lots of vegetarian options (including an eggplant dip, which comes highly recommended). Don’t forget to order some baklava and hot mint tea for dessert. The inside is large and there’s also a small terrace, which is lovely in the warmer months.The amazing Petra Treasury; seeing it would build up your appetite!My Mom’s Recipe: traditional Jordanian flavours are on the menu here and you can eat Bedouin-style food outside, with a fine view of the mountains. They also have a buffet option, for those who are looking for a bang for their buck.Al Qantarah: this is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a buffet lunch - there’s a wide range of salads, main courses and desserts, and plenty of fresh fruit too. The staff here are helpful and they are quite child-friendly. Drinks (soft) cost extra but it’s still good value for money.Yummy Bites: a great place to grab sandwiches, wraps and pizza. The staff are very helpful and the place - located on the main street in Wadi Musa - is extremely clean. A good option when you’re visiting Petra.AqabaShinawi: on Al Nahda street, close to the beach, this restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes with a great atmosphere, efficient service and friendly staff. Mixed grills and chicken liver dishes are popular and the hummus and bread (which is very fluffy) go down a treat. Big portions and fair prices,Captains: if you’re a fan of seafood, then head to this high-end restaurant, where you can pick out your own fish and then have the staff cook it for you. The main plates are plentiful, with salads and appetisers and diners rave - in particular - about the shrimp and seafood mixed grill. Please note, however, that alcohol is not served here.Julias: serves good Italian food - think plates of pasta and pizzas - and there are plenty of vegetarian options. Yummy desserts and free coffee at the conclusion of your meal are just more reasons why it’s so popular.Aqaba, by the way, is just across the border from Eilat, in Israel, and easy to get to overland, from one of the three border crossings the two countries share.West Jordan RestaurantsAmmanGhaith: this unassuming local spot serves up good quality food at a cheap price. For anyone who’s interested in Jordanian cuisine, Ghaith offers a fantastic mansaf as well as a tasty shawarma on the menu. Vegetarians will enjoy the hummus and falafel.The citadel of AmmaThe citadel of Amman. Visit the site, then have a great meal!Sufra: serving good-quality, traditional Jordanian food, in beautiful villa-like surroundings, this upscale restaurant can be relied on to serve good quality food. The lentil soup, hummus with walnut and mansaf are all excellent, and if you want to be daring, order the lamb spleen. With its cosy atmosphere and beautiful outdoor area (perfect for warmer days), Sufra is a hidden gem of a restaurant in Amman.Al Quds: extremely popular with locals, Al Quds serves up traditional, affordable Arabic food in clean surroundings. Kebabs, fried fish and the mansaf are continually popular and it’s all very authentic. However, it is not always possible to pay by credit card so make sure you take cash.The Dead SeaBurj al Hamam: located inside the Crowne Plaza Hotel, with astonishing panoramic views of the Dead Sea, enjoy authentic Arabic dishes at Burj al Hamam. With hot and cold mezze, mixed grills, delectable desserts and local wine, as well as gluten-free dishes on offer, you won’t be disappointed.Enjoy the water, then treat yourself to a local, authentic fish dish!Ashur: with lobster, shrimp and salmon for fish lovers and pizzas and pasta for vegetarians, Ashur is a fine restaurant to visit (though not super cheap). Situated inside the Kempinski hotel, popular dishes include the veal milanese, ravioli with pecorino and spinach and panna cotta with a berry coulis.Panorama: offering Jordanian, Arabic and international cuisine, Panorama is perfect for those who like a view - the sun setting over the Dead Sea at dusk is marvellous and on a clear night you can even see the lights of Jerusalem twinkling. They’re also happy to make vegetarian plates for those requesting them.Plan Your VisitIf you're thinking about seeing the Kingdom of Jordan, know this:Many tourists prefer taking organized Israel and Jordan tours, to see both countries on the same vacation while knowing everything will be arranged to make sure their experience will be perfect - and they won't miss any must-see. The most popular kinds are the Tel Aviv to Petra tourcategory, and the Jerusalem to Petra tourcategory - both include day trips to Petra from Israeland tours that include the otherworldly Wadi Rum. Feel free to contact us for details.