Jordan is multicultural, but if there’s one thing that unites everybody, it’s mansaf - a rich and plentiful melange of rice, lamb and rehydrated yoghurt. Such is mansaf’s significance and popularity, it’s considered to be the national dish. Yet it has its roots in bedouin culture, and is emblematic of survival and hospitality in the most inhospitable of desert conditions.
Mansaf is eaten at weddings, religious festivals and other special occasions. You can try it any time at many of the traditional restaurants in downtown Amman and beyond. Whether you choose between lamb or chicken, it will be cooked with a subtle blend of ‘baharat’ spices, and the plate will be garnished beautifully with pine nuts and chopped parsley.
But to really experience the magic of mansaf, head for the desert. The bedouin traditionally eat mansaf with the right hand, keeping the left hand firmly behind the back. They dig in standing up around a large platter - but you needn’t be standing for up too long. Mansaf is a notoriously heavy dish, so where better to kick back and recover than flat-out under the timeless canopy of desert stars.