Jordan: top 10 dishes, a 4 day itinerary and Jordanian restaurants in Dubai
It’s my fourth visit to Jordan in a dozen years, but this time round I leave with a richer understanding of the culture, the people and the cuisine. A Jordanian kitchen serves up many ethnic cooking styles. The most prevalent is Palestinian, heavily influenced by a Mediterranean diet. Secondly, bedouin cuisine with the restrictions that arise from a harsh desert climate. And finally, influences from the Levant – primarily Lebanon and Syria – as well as from Circassians, Armenians and Iraqis who have made Jordan their home. All these mixed into a sizzling saucepan make for a cuisine that is steeped in culture and rich in flavour, which, to my surprise, boasts rice as a core ingredient.
Our influencers trip #DineTravelMovenpick, courtesy of Movenpick Hotels & Resorts, takes us from Amman airport to Wadi Mousa, Petra, Wadi Rum, Dead Sea, Madaba and Salt – all in four days. Despite the turmoil in neighbouring countries, Jordan is very safe.
Here’s my take on must-eats in Jordan, our detailed itinerary which will hopefully help with planning, recommended Jordanian (and Palestinian) restaurants in Dubai, plus a few more bits and bobs tossed into the pan for good measure. Sahtein 🙂
FOODIVA’S TOP 10 DISHES
- Mansaf – Jordan’s national dish, even though it originates from Hebron in the West Bank. Lamb shoulder, leg or shanks are cooked in rehydrated dried yoghurt (jamid) and served on a bed of rice over paper-thin bread. It can also be made with chicken. The dried yoghurt marination makes for a slight sour and tangy flavour. This dish, and the one mentioned below are cooked for us by the Movenpick Dead Sea chefs at Saltus hotel in the city of Salt.
- Chicken freekeh – freekeh is an ancient grain of green cracked wheat stalks that are roasted on an open fire, which gives it a distinct smoky and nutty flavour. Cooked in the same way as rice or burghul and in this case using chicken broth. We also try a delightful chicken freekeh soup – pure comfort fodder. I made some freekeh brought back from Jordan as an accompaniment to sumac and olive oil marinated beef fillet – delicious.
- Zarb – a traditional Bedouin barbeque in the desert, where a whole lamb is marinated in a mix of Arabic spices for three hours and then slow-cooked for another three hours with roasted veggies in an underground pit topped with charcoal. We eat this at Wadi Rum in the luxurious Sun City camp (puts Dubai’s desert camps to shame) cooked by the Movenpick Petra chefs. Juicy and succulent. The carrots are sublimely sweet. Lovely to see local fruit and veg stalls gracing the road from Petra to the Dead Sea.
- Sageih – otherwise known as qalayet bandourah. A heady mix of onions, chillies and tomatoes cooked in a pan over an open fire (in our case Wadi Rum).
- Kofta with tahini – ground lamb meat skewers prevalent across the Arab world, but here it is cooked in a wonderfully silky and nutty tahini sauce. Served in a ‘sawani’, a traditional Jordanian baking dish. A home-cooking concept the Movenpick Dead Sea is championing which I hope will be implemented across the resort.
- Maqlouba – this dish translates to ‘upside down’ and strictly speaking is Palestinian. Lamb or chicken cooked with rice, aubergines and cauliflower in a deep saucepan which is then overturned when serving. We devour this dish whilst soaking up rays on the terrace at Movenpick Petra. If I have to pick a favourite dish from this trip, hands down, the maqlouba wins for its bundle of flavours.
- Mussakhan – we don’t taste this dish on this trip but it’s top of mind whenever I dine at Q’bara (I also serve it on one of my dine arounds). Simsim at JBR also executes it well. A Palestinian dish again. Chicken marinated in allspice, cinnamon, garlic, cardamom and cloves – served on sumac flatbread drenched in the juices from the roasted meat. Divine.
- Lazagait – local Jordanian pancakes cooked over the camp fire (once again at Wadi Rum) and layered with ghee and a sprinkling of sugar. Delicious and not too sweet.
- Mezze – the mezze we feast on at the charming, century-old Haret Jdoudna family restaurant in Madaba is simple yet special thanks to quality, locally sourced ingredients. The sambousek parcels filled with akawi, a salty white brine cheese similar to halloumi but lighter – and the uber tender lamb kofta in particular are exceptional. Jordan boasts many varieties of flatbread starting with typical pitta (here it is topped with Nigella seeds), through to tabuneh made with chickpea flour and baked on hot pebble stones, and mashrouh with its high baking soda content.
- Olive oil – made in Jordan by local women in nature conservation reserves championed by the Wild Jordan sustainability programme that Movenpick supports. The intense flavour is brought home by a moutabel aubergine tahina dip that tastes so silky smooth thanks to the quality of the first-pressed extra virgin olive oil. Incidentally, 90 per cent of Movenpick Jordan’s produce is locally sourced.
As some of our lovely readers have requested a copy of our four-day itinerary, you can download a PDF here. In organising this trip with the Movenpick team on the ground, our goal was to strike a good balance of the significant sights and cultural excursions, whilst also showcasing traditional Jordanian dishes – so you’ll find it’s not just food glorious food 🙂
JORDANIAN AND PALESTINIAN RESTAURANTS IN DUBAI
Many restaurants in Dubai boast a smattering of Jordanian and Palestinian dishes, Q’bara and Khan Murjan included, but we only have a handful whose menu is wholeheartedly dedicated to these cuisines. Here are some recommendations from FooDiva readers:
- Rawabina in Garhoud – Mita Ray, Claire Dargue, Sana on Food
- Simsim at JBR – this pick is FooDiva’s recommendation.
- Qwaider Al Nabulsi in Muraqqabat – Dragonchild8
- Zahrat Al Quds in Abu Hail – Frying Pan Adventures
- Nabilseyye in JLT – for Palestinian knafe
Wanna know more? Credit to these cookbook authors and blogs that helped with my research:
And just to prove that we didn’t just eat, here’s a pictorial slide show of the stunning sights we soaked up – iphone only 🙂
- STAY: We stayed with Movenpick at both their Petra (conveniently located next to the entrance to the Petra site) and Dead Sea resorts. Since my last visit, the latter’s Nabatean style design has aged gracefully, the gardens have blossomed and umpteen infinity pools have been added.
- VISAS: Provided you have UAE residency, all nationalities can obtain a visa on arrival.
Any other tips, food or cultural, that you would like to share? Do you have a preferred Jordanian dish or a favourite restaurant in Jordan or here in the UAE?
Disclosure: I was commissioned by Movenpick to help organise the #DineTravelMovenpick influencers trip. As always, the opinions expressed here are mine alone. My travel companions were Chef and Steward, My Custard Pie, Noni’s Place, Ishita Unblogged and Coffee Cakes and Running – the last two are also the lovely ladies behind Food e-mag.
— FooDiva (@FooDivaWorld) April 11, 2016