Food of the Middle East

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July 31st 2012
Published: August 1st 2012
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A warning ahead of time - I don't have a gift for describing food or tastes, but hopefully you can get an idea from the pictures and my few short descriptions; I wanted to show some of the people at home what arab food is like.

Laila's mom is just as good of a cook as Laila had described to me. She has cooked most of our meals (but her dad did the fish and homemade pizza) and there hasn't been one that I didn't like. Yesterday was my first time trying Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan. I loved it! It's lamb over rice with a fermented yogurt poured in over it and it has a completely unique taste. A lot of foreigners I have met say they really don't like it, but honestly, I thought it was delicious. The dishes I've tried have been from a mix of places. Most are P'lestinian, Jordanian, and Lebanese, but today we had a chicken and rice dish from Saudi Arabia too.

And wow I'm saving so much money! Not only have her parents been gracious in cooking for me a lot, but in the United States a shawerma or falafel sandwich costs anywhere from $6.99 to $9.99 - when just last night I bought two falafel sandwiches for a grand total of $2! And the food here is obviously more authentic and thus tastier. Shawerma and falafel are kind of the equivalent of arab fast food, but I'd say they're higher quality as opposed to McDonalds or KFC. I've seen Burger King, McD's, KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut, and even Chilis. A lot of american chains have come to Jordan, but luckily I've been able to completely avoid them. If you don't know shawerma or falafel - shawerma is made with chicken or lamb, scraped off of a big chunk of meat that is hung on a rotating skewer inside a semi cylinder grill. The meat is put into a wrap, usually with pickles and a mayo like sauce. Falafel are fried balls of fava beans and or chickpeas mashed together, eaten alone with hummos or in a wrap like shawerma. Both are utterly delicious!

Arabs love to snack - common snacks are fa'ous (sp?) - kind of like cucumbers, they're a watery vegetable that are really good to stay hydrated and as something to snack on. Bugles are also really popular here and there's another salty party mix that all of Laila's family seem to always have stocked. Whenever company comes over bugles, party mix, assorted nuts and sometimes bread with different meats are always set out for the guests to snack on. Another middle eastern treat is bizer - salted seeds (pumpkin or watermelon, not sure) that are at times addictive. They reminded me a lot of sunflower seeds and the way those are snacked on in the states. Dates are also a pretty common snack here - more so than in the US.

Common Cooking:

Arabic yogurt is something I've gotten used to and I know I will miss. It's a sugarless yogurt added to rice and other foods as a topping and I've grown to love it.

Olive Oil - an obvious necessity as Jordan is known for its many olive trees and its mediterranean dishes

hummos - found in falafel sandwiches and eaten with bread or other foods. Hummos is made from mashed up chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, and olive oil. Probably one of the most famous middle eastern foods.

More meals I've enjoyed since getting here were the BBQ picnic we had, Laila's uncle's famous fajitas, her mom's asian chicken and noodles, fattet jaj - a chicken/rice dish with yogurt, nuts, and meat (lamb or beef) on top (my favorite so far! DELICIOUS),and also a stuffed chicken with rice (also in my top 3 favorites).

Her dad is a great cook as well! He fried fish for us with boiled shrimp that were to die for and also made us pizzas one day. He and his sister were also the ones doing most of the BBQing and that turned out fantastic! There was lamb with arabic salad and a bit of chicken as well. We've also eaten at her grandma's house where we had chicken and sfeeha - little soft bread pastries topped with seasonings and meat or cheese.

Verdict: the food here is just as good as Laila had described. The foods here all have unique tastes and seem to have fresher ingredients too. It feels good to get away from all that processed food in the US.

Only 2 more weeks before Laila and I head home! We still have quite a bit on our to do list, but since tomorrow is my last day of class, I'll have more free time for the next two weeks before the next semester of uni starts.

So I've been looking forward to seeing Jordan's Dead Sea Scrolls in the National Archeological Museum of Amman, and I did something really stupid (memories of the Hong Kong fortress came back to me - Hong Kong - Day 25 ) I didn't realize that the museum at the Citadel, that we went to a few weeks ago, was the National Archeological Museum... so I was there, but didn't see them! I'd be more upset except I'm planning on going to Jerusalem soon where most of the scrolls are kept, so I will still have a chance to see them.

Additional photos below
Photos: 33, Displayed: 25


Fattet jajFattet jaj
Fattet jaj

My favorite so far

A common snack in Jordan - salted or flavored watermelon seeds. reminded me of sunflower seeds in the states

Jordan is known for its many olive trees

1st August 2012

Thanks for the detailed description of Jordanian food...
now I have to try some.
2nd August 2012

you really should! :D
1st August 2012

Don't Discount Your Gift for Food
Since a lot of my blogs feature writings and musings about food and wine, I wanted to say that you did a great job in this blog. What is important is how you convey your enthusiasm for the foods, and I could see that. This was a great blog. Enjoy the rest of your time there.
2nd August 2012

Thank you brendan, Yes, I've noticed the food and wine in your blogs :) I've really enjoyed your blogs as well, keep them coming
2nd August 2012

Love this entry!
You described the food wonderfully. And the photos are great too! Good job!!
2nd August 2012

thank you so much for the kind words :) I'm glad you liked it.
2nd August 2012

I'm so glad we got to eat all this
and I'm so glad you had food that you never had before and how excited you were about it. We're gonna miss all this when we go back to Atlanta :/ <3
5th August 2012

<3 Laila
Yea I really will miss it here. we'll have to find a good middle eastern restaurant in atlanta
2nd August 2012

Nice blog! :)
I will be getting to try some exotic middle eastern food soon, because I am going to Israel in October. An Israeli member of TravelBlog gave me a list of Falafal and Hummous restaurants that he says only the locals go to. He says they are the best ones, but hard to find, because the menus are not in English. The list is posted by him on the following thread, in case you want it too.
2nd August 2012

thank you mell! i'm actually headed there next week
2nd August 2012

Food Descriptions + Photos = Fabulous!
Your food descriptions are great! They definitely made me hungry. Your pics are great, also. I'm looking forward to your next blog - keep them coming!
2nd August 2012

Thank you!
thanks for the comment nanci. I just looked through your blogs and you have some amazing photos! I'll have to go through them more thoroughly when i have more time
3rd August 2012

You've become a foody!
Hope you will do more food blogs. Love it! Can you arrange for us to meet her parents and take a cooking class from them? No disclaimer needed. It sounds like your palate has become educated. You are having an amazing life experience.
3rd August 2012

Good idea to include food from those wonderful lands. I love food in the Middle East, tasty, amazing.

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