Here’s a chance to try something new – Movenpick Hotel has a Jordanian food festival running right now, and if you can get there by Friday (April 12th), do! The special items are part of the dinner buffet at My Place, and in and of itself, the Jordanian menu is extensive. So when you add the rest of the spread on offer, it’s quite a mind boggling range! For once, there’s almost more for the vegetarians than meat eaters. Apparently, Jordanians love their vegetables, as Chef Mohammed Al Asmar, who is here from the Movenpick in Jordan, explained to us. Chef came here to learn Indian cooking, and the folks here decided it would be remiss of them to send him home without putting on a festival of his native cuisine. Lucky for us huh?
During our chat with Chef Mohammed, we found out that Jordanian food, as such, does not exist; rather it’s an
entire region, the Middle East, that is represented. For whatever reason, one tends to hear of and go to places that serve “Lebanese”. According to Chef, there is no such thing as Lebanese or Jordanian, but rather, a style of cooking and ingredients that encompass the region. Of course there are specialties from each country and preparations that their people count as their own. What is perhaps the most enticing aspect of this festival at Movenpick (other than the delicious food) is that the vittles being served up are truly home style. The dishes are those prepared in Jordanian homes (Chef told us he has been relying on his mother for many of the recipes) and his enthusiasm for his country, his mom’s cooking, and his interest in sharing his culture was quite evident.
Once we dove into the eating part of the evening, it was evident that what Chef had said right at the onset, that the food we would eat was similar to Indian, was quite right. More delicately flavored and much less spicy than Indian cooking, the many dishes we ate that night all had similar spices and style of preparation as what we eat at home. We began with salads; I just love hummus and baba ghanoush, and the versions served here were spectacular! There was also a yogurt and buckwheat salad that was tangy and tasty. The other starters we ate included cheese and spinach sambuseks that were amazingly un-oily, Sfiha (mini, open faced pitas topped with mince lamb) and Mo’ajanat (chicken in dough). Next up was an offering of kebabs of the utmost deliciousness and the meat was so succulent (having been, in some cases, marinated for many hours).
For the mains, as I said earlier, there were a number of vegetarian offerings including roasted veggies, heavy on eggplant and just lightly seasoned with olive oil, salt and lemon juice – a big hit at our table. There were a few different versions of rice, veg with tomato, or mixed with lamb (more pulav than biriyani style), a lentil dish, beans with tomatoes, cooked in olive oil and spices that was my favorite vegetarian offering. There was a tomato and egg dish , Shakshoka, that reminded me of an onion and egg recipe that my mom makes, called khagina. The one dish that we did not love was a roast chicken dish that was too heavily salted for my palate. The highlight of the meal was a kofta preparation with tahini, called Kofta bi Tahnia, that made me wish I had space for another helping.
The dessert spread was good, with 3 Jordanian offerings, of which the best was the sticky date pudding with toffee and chocolate chips. We left full, happy, and delighted at having made the acquaintance of a new food culture. If you get the chance, don’t miss out!
Photo credit: Ruth Dsouza