Perhaps no other dish is more original to the Jordanian cuisine than the all-time Jordanian beloved Mansaf, it’s ingredients, it’s preparation, presentation, and maybe most importantly it’s manner of consumption!
The ingredients include signature Jordanian lamb, a delicacy not to be missed if you’re to any extent a meat fan, Jameed, an ingredient that went from practicality to taste bud necessity! The word itself is derived from the Arabic word for solid, since this is a type of rock hard salty fat reduced cheese, traditionally prepared by Bedouins to preserve goat milk products in the seemingly impoverished desert conditions for long periods of time, perfect for Nomadic desert dwelling shepherds of the Jordanian desert. Jameed is softened and delicately turned to a soup –usually adding fresh yogurt if available- in which the lamb is cooked in, adding some exotic spices such as the ground fruit of the wild Atlantic Pistachio tree found across the country.
Traditionally the lamb yogurt soup would be used to soak whole-wheat thin yeast free bread called ‘shrak’ or lightly roasted wheat, nowadays rice is substituted, this hot served dish is topped by chopped parsley and your favorite nuts, traditionally roasted almond nuts, served on a large flat communal dish where a group of people would huddle around and share, the most lavishly served is even topped by the cooked sheep head, this is a highly regarded gesture since even the most modern Jordanian today will still appreciate tender meat and some more experienced will be able to infer allot about the sheep used to prepare the dish, things as precise as age!
Mansaf, the word, roughly could be translated to that which is scooped. If you’re thinking any utensil is involved, you’d be mistaken, however if you’re thinking it’s something to do with the method of enjoyment then you’re right! Since the truly authentic manner of handling Mansaf is by using only your right hand -personal limb hygiene needless to say is essential- and taking roughly half hand full scoops of the proportionally saturated rice, lamb, and some topping, before gently and repeatedly squeezing that scoop into a somewhat hardened ball shaped serving, a process requiring at least some skill, especially when you must consider the delicate etiquette of not allowing your fingers from entering your mouth while ever lightly chucking in that ball with the top of your thumb!
From its signature Jordanian ingredients, through its preparation and presentation, to its enjoyment etiquette, Mansaf is truly not only THE Jordanian dish, but an adventure in itself for any strong willed venturer into Jordanian cuisine.
Note, Mansaf was assigned a capital m throughout this article because it could seriously be offensive elsewise to some Jordanians!
Post by Nader Habaibeh