Abu Jbara, Humus Specialists, Amman

I like Michelin star restaurants, I do.  In a few cases, I even love them.  But you know what I like even better?  Places that specialize in one thing.

Al Jbara is a restaurant in Amman, Jordan that specializes in Humus.  They do Lebanese Humus, with whole chickpeas mixed in. Breakfast humus with chickpeas and bread folded through to keep you going the whole day. And my favorite, Jordanian humus with just a few chickpeas strewn on top and a magic sauce.  As far as I can tell, the magic sauce consists of grated spicy green peppers in lemon juice with a little bit of garlic and salt.  One teaspoonful transforms the smooth silky humus from just “Wow! This is good!” To “Holy chickpeas batman, this humus is rocking my world!”

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Zad el Khair, Iraqi Food, Amman Jordan

In Iraq they have rivers flanked by restaurants, they fish out carp and split them open like a book, impale them on wooden sticks and position them close enough to an open fire so that they take on a smoky flavor but far enough so that they cook slowly, over the course of one hour. If you eat only the meat from the belly, there are no bones to contend with.

I haven’t been to Iraq and I have been told the rivers have become so polluted that the fish are no longer safe to eat.

The fish I ate at the Iraqi restaurant Zad el Khair in Amman originally came from the rivers of Syria and was fished out still alive from a shallow pool of water. There it thrashed about on the tile floor while a man delivered some ineffective blows to its head. The carp doesn’t even have time to go into rigor mortis, so quick is its journey from pool to plate. Read more of this post

A garden in Jordan

“Would you like me to kill a rabbit for you?” The gardener’s wife asked, when she saw Layla and I playing with the rabbits.

I unintentionally recoiled.  “Oh no, we are just playing with them.”

“You eat rabbit?” she continued

“Umm, yes.” My Arabic isn’t good enough to explain that, like many city people, I am a total hypocrite when it comes to meat-eating.  (The one time I had to gut and de-feather a pheasant at Leiths, I was entirely without appetite when it came to eating the finished dish.) 

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Habibah, knafeh, Amman, Jordan

I only eat knafeh at Habibah, in Jordan. The last time I ate it was in 2006, when my husband and I got married.

Maybe all that waiting and pining is what makes me think it’s the best knafeh on the planet. But then again, no, I think because it’s the best knafeh on the planet, it’s worth the wait.

When we drove up to the shop I yelled “Habibah, Habibi! (darling)” the whole car started laughing at my unguarded enthusiasm.

How to describe it?

There are two kinds of knafeh; my favorite is a layer of cream that is boiled until it takes on the consistency of a rubbery stringy cheese (a bit like melted unsalted haloumi if you can imagine it). On top of that is shredded filo and then the whole lot is doused in sugar syrup. Read more of this post


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