Jordan - A Taste of Good Times

Jordanian, or rather Lebanese food, is vibrant, appealing to the eyes and stomach and extremely healthy as well. Such a colourful and interesting cuisine demands a separate article for itself!

By: Soumya Jain

Posted on: July 10, 2011

Jordanian, or rather Lebanese food, is vibrant, appealing to the eyes and stomach and extremely healthy as well. Such a colourful and interesting cuisine demands a separate article for itself!

“This is called the Rocca Salad,” said Basel pointing towards a bowl filled with green rocket leaves, “and these leaves are supposed to be very, very good for men,” and he winked towards the embarrassed ‘men’ in our group as we girls sniggered under the table.

Basel never failed to give an explanation about whatever we were eating. We would start asking a lot of questions, then slow down the tempo of our queries, and finally choose to just dig into the food and enjoy it. Jordanian food is not different from Lebanese food – and that is what you will find in most of the restaurants in Jordan - but it certainly turned out to be slightly confusing. On our first meal at Jordan, large helpings of Hummus, Baba Ganuj, Tabulleh, Muttabel, Falafel, Khuboos (somewhat like the Indian bread called ‘naan’), and more were kept in front of us. We started stuffing ourselves with the fantastic food which was soaked in lavish helpings of olive oil.

Kiran, one of our friends, who had an experience of Arab culture, tried to warn us that this was most probably just the starters. But we scoffed and asked her who would give naan kind of bread as an appetiser? But as it turned out, she was correct. After filling up ourselves with the ‘starters’, came a huge platter of kebabs and a plate of rice and barbecued veggies for me. “Well, well. It would be a good idea to listen to Kiran from now on” – we decided there and then!

From there on, most of our lunches consisted of Lebanese cuisine. And I was very surprised to find a plethora of vegetarian dishes! I had expected a meat filled table, but every time we were treated to a colourful spread of veggies prepared temptingly. Another one was these hot, oozing cheese pies, called Sambousek b’jibn, which we had at a charming restaurant called Haret Jdoudna – which is actually a 100-year old house converted into a restaurant and handicrafts centre.

I am a big, huge tea drinker – like all journalists are I suspect. I instantly fell in love with the ‘chai’ in Jordan. Everywhere you go, you get to experience a different flavour of it. Sometimes it’s mint and sometimes a concoction of cinnamon, cardamom and sage. Anywhere you go, the taste of the tea will almost always be different with various herbs forming a part of the liquid. There were times when we would be sleeping in our mini-van while traveling. We would come out like zombies at the destination, and make a beeline for the chai we were being offered. It never, ever, failed to refresh us!

Something cold we wished for? And we were always presented with Na’na – their specialty lime-mint drink. It was salty, tangy, tasty and a constant feature in any and every restaurant you go to – much like Hummus!

After thoroughly savouring the vibrant Lebanese cuisine, we even got a chance to actually cook it! Called Petra Kitchen, and located very near to, well, the historical site of Petra, it was an enjoyable experience. Chefs were assigned to our tables and each table was given two dishes to make. Our table had to make Tabulleh (tomato and parsley salad) and Musakhan (a chicken main course dish). We were actually busier trying to show off our ‘cooking skills’ on camera rather than actually preparing something.

In any case, we again gorged on the Lebanese food with another group of Brazilian journalists, which was finally prepared by the actual chefs after all. But you know what flavours I will always associate with Lebanese food? Friendship, joy, comradeship and good times!

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