Friday, April 30, 2010

Traditional Foods of Jordan

While talking with a colleague about the evolution of belly dancing in Muslim cultures, she quickly asserted that Jordanians ARE NOT belly dancers ..... Jordanians ARE belly fillers.Wherever you go, food is abundant, zaki (delicious), and always shared. Jordanians love their lamb and mutton, and the Al Ramtha area where I live also is known for its tradition of eating camel meat. In the spring, people carry bushy bunches of green hummous and bags of green luz (almonds) and orange askadinia which they eat as snacks. Roadside stalls and markets of fruits, vegetables, spices and nuts abound. Although I have not found anything that I don't like, I am particularly fond of maashowi (skewered lamb) and lazagyat (extremenly thin bread dipped in olive oil, then sugared and rolled ... just like a French crepe) made outside over a wood burning fire. I have learned to make karkaday, kussa (stuffed squash) and dowali (stuffed grape leaves). Another favorite is the national dish of Jordan, mensaf! Its origins are Bedouin and it is made of boiled mutton over rice which is then covered with toasted almonds, parsley and a tart yogurt sauce. The hard, ball-shaped yogurt used for mensaf is dense like a brick. Developed by the desert dwellers, this form of yogurt lasts until it is rehydrated for mensaf. The mensef is served on communal platers and we all eat it with our right hands. By the way, I did eat the meat from the sheep's head too!!!
While visiting a colleague's home for the weekend, we enjoyed traditional breakfasts where it was pointed out to me that one came entirely from the garden (hummous, khubez, falafel, makdoos, s'laata, tabbouleh, bandura, zaytoon, abugines, jezer, fuul, shy marrameeya and shy nanna) and one came entirely from animals (lahmeh, asal, bayd, jibneh, labneh, zabazdi, zibdeh). Her aunt, who had just returned from an umrah shared with us water (zam zam) and dates from Mecca.
And then, there is always Arabic coffee which is ground with cardommon spices straight from the coffee bean roaster, and the gastronomically beautiful and zaki Arabic sweets like k'naffy, baglawa, hareeseh, mehallabiyyeh, and halwa which are certainly not on the Weight Watchers recommended foods to eat list. I have easily adapted to the Jordanian custom of "belly filling".

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