Foods & Drinks from Jordan and Israel Travels

I had the greatest opportunity to travel to the Middle East for the first time in March 2019. It had been on my bucket list to visit the Holy Land and walk in the footsteps of Jesus, the Israelites, Moses and other biblical characters.
I first landed in Jordan and made my way to Israel on land with a religious tour group. My sister and I then parted ways when the tour ended and traveled to the amazing Petra, Wadi Rum and the Red Sea before I flew back to the States.
This web page is dedicated to the foods and drinks that I encountered in Jordan and Israel as well as during my flights with Turkish Airlines. Enjoy!

Note: Click on the pictures to enlarge them.  This webpage is not optimized for mobile viewing- sorry!

Maqluba
Maqluba is a popular chicken and rice dish. It is hugely popular not only for the tastes but also for the dramatic demonstration of turning the pot upside-down before serving it to the guests. 


Mansaf and Kebab Siniyye
Mansaf is a Jordanian traditional dish that is made of stewed lamb in a fermented yogurt sauce and served over a bed of rice on a large platter. It is typically served with an assortment of side dishes such as hummus, tabbouleh, pickled olives and vegetables, baba ghanoush and pita bread.
Kebab siniyye is skewered meats such as chunks of chicken and minced lamb and minced beef seasoned with spices, grilled and served on a tray. They are closely related to their Greek cousin, gyro.
This lunch spread fed two people!

This dinner spread fed 8 people!

St. Peter's Fish
We learned about this fish as we traveled around the Sea of  Galilee and River Jordan. Also know as John Dory, it was served whole, deep fried with rice, roasted potatoes or french fries and lemon wedges. I finished it in one go and was delicious.

Druze People
I learned about the Druze while discussing the composition of Israeli military forces. Druze in Israel live in a few sectarian villages and several mixed-religion Arab localities in pre-1967 Israel (Upper and Lower Galilee and Mount Carmel) and on the Golan Heights. When we entered their communities, we lost communications and saw some garbed in interesting attires. The more conservative ones dressed modestly with white head coverings and black or blue dresses for the women and keffiyah for the men.
When we stopped for lunch, they served us deep fried chicken chop akin to schnitzel. It was delicious.

Za'atar, Sumac and Raw Almonds
I knew I was in a unique part of the world when I tasted newly acquired flavors. The za'atar I know is a popular Middle Eastern herbs condiment comprising of ground thyme, oregano and sesame seeds. There are many variations of za'atar- some contain dried Hyssop leaves, so I really shouldn't write more since I am really a novice in this area :) Za'atar is used for seasoning in roasted meats and vegetables and flavor booster in salads and other dishes. 
Sumac is my latest discovery. It is a reddish- purple powder grounded from the drupes of Rhus coriaria plant. They are found sprinkled on hummus, salads, meat dishes and rice. They impart a lemony, tart flavor.  

My Lebanese by heritage friend has mentioned eating raw almonds while growing up in her old country. It's not the dried almond nut that we find in most grocery stores in the world. It's the truly fresh, raw, frizzy, crunchy green version that imparts a slightly tart aftertaste. I searched high and low for it in Israel. My wish came true when I found the pile of brightly green raw almonds shining among the red fruits in a wet farmers' market in Amman. 

Dried Fruits, Nuts, Seeds and Sweets
Dried dates, figs and apricots are probably the most famous dried fruits coming out from this region. Medjool dates are larger and sweeter than their smaller cousins and seem to be a trend in the raw vegan food movement in the States.  I was told that eating two dates daily provides sufficient nourishment for people who lived in the desert eons ago. 
Dried figs are unlike the ones you find in the States. They are round, yellow in color and larger than the tear drop shape, purple in color ones.  In the markets, one can find other dried fruits such as dried kiwi, papaya, mango and raisins.
 

I enjoyed seeing the variety of nuts and seeds but less so for the sweets on display as we explored the night markets in Israel and Jordan.  Freshly baked breads of many kinds were sold too.
  


Desserts
A meal is incomplete if one hasn't eaten the assortment of desserts found in Jordan and Israel. One must try the famous kanafeh, which consists of mild stringy white cheese and shredded wheat surface, which is covered by sugar syrup. I like to eat when it's warm.

Then there are the baklava variations that are filled with pistachios, almonds, pine nuts and cashews and come in all sorts of shapes such as fingers, bird's nest- like, rounds and triangles covered with sticky syrup.
Cold desserts are common too such as jelly of myriad colors and flavors, caramel cream and Muhallabia aka milk pudding. All these sweet things are best accompanied with strong black coffee or tea.
 

Coffee and Tea
If you're a Starbucks fan, Jordan and Israel are probably not the place you want to be. Locals drink coffee like water, usually with a lit cigarette on hand. One can find coffee shops scattered at every town's corner. In some shops, you can order three kinds of coffee- brewed on the spot, instant coffee or espresso.
Locally brewed coffee, made on the spot.

Tea is widely consumed too. Some teas come plain, others come with spices. Most of them are sweetened with sugar so do ask to reduce or omit it if you're watching your sugar consumption. Bedouin tea is made with dried tea leaves, dried sage, dried cardamon and fresh mint. It was my first time drinking tea with dried sage in it and I quite like it.
Bedouin tea prepared by our Bedouin 4x4 driver. He built the little fire in the middle of the desert to boil the tea on the spot.

Freshly brewed Bedouin tea flavored with dried sage, cardamom and mint.

Juices and Adult Beverages
Part of a foodie experience in this part of the world is to enjoy freshly pressed pomegranate and orange juices. Vendors typically operate manual presses to keep the juices fresh. 
 Freshly pressed pomegranate juice. The green press is for orange juice.

Some of the local beers and wines in Israel. It was my first time trying King David  Carmel and Concorde wines - I'm not a huge fan since both of them were too sweet for my taste. The beers were decent. 

Turkish Airlines Meals
I received two hot meals during my economy cabin 12  hours flight from SFO to IST. In between the meals, they served sandwiches but I skipped them, opting to catch up with my sleep. 
The economy cabin menu and complimentary personal kit consisting of toiletries, ear plugs, socks, slippers and an eye mask.
 
The grilled chicken breast option for my first hot meal. It was nice to have proper silverware and a wet towel.

Mushroom and cheese omelette for my second hot meal.

I got a cold meat sandwich and a drink at IST airport due to a 2.5 hours delay. For my shorter 2 hours flight from IST to AMM, I had a full hot meal. 
The 2 hours flight's hot meal consisting of nicely seasoned minced meat and chocolate mousse.

On my return flight from AMM to IST, I had a hot meal with a nice spicy pepper. I didn't take pictures of my IST to SFO flight- the foods were similar to the earlier SFO to IST flight.
A meat sandwich and mushroom and cheese pie slice with apricot pastry.

Created on March 24, 2019
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