Jordan has so much to offer!

Mansaf is food originating from the desert, and is reflective of that environment, its produce and  storage requirements

There is historical sites, such as Petra, the many Roman Amphitheatres, Jericho, Al Maghtas (baptism Site, Bethany – Jordan River) and everything in between. There is Nature at its most beautiful, such as the deserts of the south, which house the magical mountains of Wadi Rum very closely located to Aqaba, the city by the beautiful and rich Red Sea. There are the water springs of Ma’ine, the greenery of the north and all that you can think of in terms of natural beauty.

Jordan is a must visit, if you haven’t already! It is beautiful, with lots to offer.

When in Jordan though, one thing you must never miss out on is a good Mansaf! Mansaf is the heart of the Jordanian cuisine, but also it is at the heart of Jordanian culture and hospitality. Mansaf is basically a stew of meat cooked in fermented goat’s milk, that is very uniquely delicious. If you have not tried it before and would like to give it a go, or if you have tried it but live away from Jordan, or if you would like to learn more about Mansaf, this is the post with all the info, so read on…

Since Mansaf to the Jordanians is more than just food to fill your stomach, and more of a piece of history, culture, hospitality and lifestyle – Mansaf in Jordan is a Social Tradition – I, therefore, cannot tap into this delicious dish, without a bit of a background…

 

The Mansaf that we know today

is inspired and based on the Saudi Arabian Bedouin dish “Thereed”. Thereed is essentially a dish made out of meat, broth and bread. The whole area was inhabited by Bedouins and as they happen to be living in the desert, they kept on moving in search for water and shelter from the harsh weather conditions in the different seasons. These relocation have carried with them the Bedouin’s food and traditions to the new areas.

The early Jordanian Bedouins ate Thereed as their main food, of course as being a desert the food was limited to that environment’s produce. As Jordan started becoming an agricultural country, and being influenced by the peasants and the cultures of the migrating neighbours and later also the dislocated neighbours, the country’s produce started growing in number and kind. Consequently, the Jordanian Bedouins started introducing new produce into their food, such as rice, wheat, Bulgur as well as yogurt. Which eventually went into their main food preparation and evolved the originally Thereed into what is now known as Mansaf.

The making of Mansaf, starts well before the actual cooking.

Making the Jameed (fermented yoghurt, from which Mansaf is made) is the first step. Jameed balls, are bought from local stores, and some speciality stores. In Jordan they are always bought from the source: the Bedouins making it. Nowadays, there is a modern version of Jameed that comes in carton containers, already liquified, but they are nowhere near the goodness of the original dried Jameed balls.

If you live in the UAE, you can buy my gorgeous, artisanal “DS Jameed Balls” here. These are small batch, made by a Bedouin artisan that I have sourced myself and are extremely superior quality Jameed.

Here is a quick run through how Jameed is made.

Jameed is made out of milk. The milk can vary from maker to another and sometimes from area to another, and so does the quality. The best quality Jameed is made out of Goat’s Milk. The Karaki Jameed (Coming from Karak) is famous to be the best in Jordan. The Goat’s milk is put in a container to change from milk to yogurt. It is then placed in a sack (originally made from goats’ skin) and shaken to separate the milk solids from liquids.

In the old days, a Bedouin lady would sit and shake the milk till ready, but nowadays there are machines that carry out this step. 

The butter (milk solid) will then be taken and made into local ghee (Samen Baladi), which is later on used in the cooking of Mansaf.

The remaining Soured Milk (liquids) is then heated to separate further. The whole separated mixture is then placed in a large cloth (kind of like a cheese cloth technique) to completely drain out all the remaining liquid. There will only remain the Jabjab, which is the hard solid part. This is then mixed with salt, and left for a further 24 hours in the cloth to dry.

Then it is taken out of the cloth, and pressed together and shaped into balls, which are then left to sun-dry for 2-3 days.

 

These Jameed balls will then be rock hard, and the name (literally meaning “solid”) is reflective of their dry solid state. These Jameed Balls can be stored for about a year, which is very convenient for desert life, as they had no access to refrigeration and other storage options. Then when ready to cook, the Jameed is rehydrated, by being broken up, soaked in water and rubbed to go back into liquid state. It is then added to meat and broth, creating a yoghurt-based sauce, the actual mansaf.

 

Mansaf Traditions

Drawn mainly from Bedouin Traditions, Mansaf is usually offered by Jordanian hosts as a token of appreciation, respect and value. It is an expression of how valued you are to them as their guest. The meat used is generally indicative of the guest’s status to them. If it is made with Goat’s Meat that is reflective of the highest grades of respect and value, less is the lamb, and least is the chicken. The original Mansaf will have the cooked head of the goat, placed at its centre. This is usually offered to the most important or valued guest by the host as a symbol of respect and great hospitality.

Traditionally, ready-to-eat Mansaf is placed in a large serving tray (Sider) as it is traditional for all to be served from one dish. Mansaf is traditionally eaten with the fingertips of the right hand, while the left hand is placed behind the back. The host will keep on drenching the rice with cooked Jameed (yogurt sauce) for his guests to enjoy a moistened bite. by doing so, the host is also ensuring best hospitality and celebrating the obviously valued guests.

Those are the traditions, which many still carry out today. But the symbolism of Mansaf still remains that of respect, utmost hospitality and appreciation for guests. It is therefore served when you are being celebrated and welcomed into a Jordanian Home, and always advisable that you express understanding that they have gone above and beyond to make you feel welcomed and appreciated.

Thank you Auntie Nadra for your help with the info about Mansaf’s Origins, Traditions and evolution. I had no idea! 🙂

 

With that said, please feel free to use cutlery, should you not wish to eat with your hands. I personally use cutlery and there is no shame in that. I do not know how to eat mansaf with my hands and so I spare myself and my hosts the mess! I also do not place a goat’s head in the centre of the dish, we don’t always have access to these ingredients! Moreover, and to make it healthier, I do not use Samen Baladi (Ghee), instead I use olive oil! Yes, I do!!! & everyone loves it! 🙂

It is always good to know the traditions, to love and celebrate them, but in the end we cook, eat and serve food our way. This is exactly why we share recipes, exactly why I love reading and learning about the same foods from different sources. Each has their own touch, so don’t be afraid to have yours in the food you make.

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22 responses to “Jordanian Mansaf – More than just Food, It Is A Social Tradition!

  1. Salaam and thank you for the recipe! I just have one question: Do I cook the rice with the broth? That part is a bit unclear to me, because you stated that we should use all 3 L. of the broth for 5 lbs. of lamb prior to adding the jameed. Or do I only mix the jameed/lebane with half the broth and use the remainder for the rice?

    Thank you!

  2. Hi Dawud, Thank you for your comment 🙂
    In general for cooking the lamb in this recipe you will need 3 ltrs of broth. The broth volume should be 1/3 of the lamb volume. If the meat shrinks during cooking, you might have to reduce the level of liquid a little bit.

    As for cooking the rice, you will need 1.5 ltr for the amount of rice used in this recipe. If you have prior made broth, you ca use that, or if you want to use broth from this recipe, you will have to adjust the liquid quantities accordingly (just add more water).

    PS Don't confuse the overall water used to cook the lamb with the 3 ltrs used to finish up the mansaf. if you have made a total of 5 ltrs of broth, use 3 in the actual jameed sauce and 1.5 for the rice!
    Hope this helps 🙂

  3. Your blog is a treasure of Middle Eastern recipes. I had Mansaf many years ago and I can never forget how delicious it was. Of course it wasn't as rich as yours, but even so it made a huge impression on me. Now, being vegan, it's really hard to find a way to enjoy it again, but I will surely try and your post is the best inspiration. Not only do I get a great recipe, but all this information too:)

  4. You are the sweetest, thank you for the warm words 🙂
    Yes Mansaf is delicious, and one of those distinct flavours that you can only have as mansaf. It would be interesting to see how it can be done vegan!!! I am telling you that is a tough task!!

  5. this dish is made throughout the sham..laban immou in Lebanon. shaqriyeh in syria..mensaf jordan/palestine..the only difference is the jameed versus fresh yogurt in the other countries

    1. Hey there, Thank you for the comment 🙂
      Yes true, Mansaf is very similar to the Syrian and Lebanese concoctions made with natural yoghurt. In Jordan too, we make the one without Jameed and call it Shakryeh. However it is only 'Mansaf' when Jameed is used. A classic example on how the use of one ingredient totally changes the dish. The Jameed is very distinctive in flavour and makes mansaf very different from Shkryeh or laban immou. Both varieties are super delicious and regulars on my family food menu 🙂

  6. I suppose, but they are pretty much the same flavor profiles.. spiced lamb stewed in tart yogurt sauce ..please do post the jordanian vesion of shaqriyeh, do you use nana for that? and a recipe for mshat….thank you in advance..and a jordanian ijjeh..lol

    1. Thank you for the comment 🙂
      The Shakryeh we make is exactly the same as the yoghurt in Kubbeh bilaban, except instead of kubbeh we cook it with pieces of lamb meat on the bone, and use the broth to flavour the laban. here is a link to the kubbeh bilaban recipe: ( https://www.dimasharif.com/2010/11/kubbeh-bilaban-kubbeh-in-yoghurt-sauce.html )

      As for Nanan, I am not sure I know what you are referring to! I also don't know what mshat is! maybe we have a different naming for it! Please explain to me what these are … 🙂

  7. ty for link..nana is mint and mshat is like cauliflower fritters or mshat koosa/ koosa fritters.. and, ijjeh eggs parsley onion nana

    1. You are welcome – I am guessing you are Miriam 🙂 –
      I thought you were using an English word with Nana lol :)) The addition of mint to yogurt based sauces is in Fact Palestinian. here is a link for a yogurt-sauce-based recipe that uses mint ( https://www.dimasharif.com/2010/04/love-zucchini-2-zucchini-dishes-that.html )
      In Mansaf mint is not used in the making of the sauce. In fact the traditional Jordanian Mansaf is made using only Jameed without the addition of yogurt, which is why I named this recipe Dima's Mansaf recipe. I personally add the yogurt as I find it tastes better this way.

      As for the fritters (mshat) am still not sure what you are referring to?! are they fried then cooked in stew (yogurt based, or tomato based) or are you talking about the appetiser version with tahina?

      There is a phenomenal palestinian recipe of fried cauliflower cooked in yogurt sauce which we call makmooret zahra (I will be posting this recipe very soon as it is worth the glory, it is super delicious). We also have another recipe of stuffed zucchinis in meat and nuts which are then fried and afterwards cooked in minted yogurt sauce. Are these the ones you are talking about?
      As for Ijjeh I knew what that was, will post it for you soon for sure :))

  8. the zahra bil laban sounds absolutely delicious looking forward to the recipe as well as ijjeh,actually used to have a syrian friend who makes the zahra( not fried) bil cooked laban with tahineh ( whole area( the sham) was once without borders so you can find the same dishes with variatiosn throughout..so fascinating each claiming it as their own) but never got the exact recipe sadly……the fritters are just fried and eaten as is..miriam

    1. Miriam, that is because that area has a specific cuisine called Laventine Cuisine (and all regions of it are very similar). Cuicine is usually determined by the geography, access to sea and produce. All the Levant is one of the same. But like with Mediterranean cuisine, despite the similarities, each region is known for something and each part does a recipe differently, regardless of the oneness of ingredients. A little change in a recipe changes the whole experience.
      The more up towards the north in the Levant, you will find an increased use of Tahina. The more south you go, the cuisine is more dependent on yogurt. People get influenced by neighboring countries and start adopting techniques, ingredients, and even recipes. At the end of the day our cuisine was majorly based on the Turkish cuisine. This is the natural evolution, and all varieties taste superb. More options I would say :))

  9. so true, thank you so much..luv ur blog ..looking forward to trying out my kitchen skills..especially with the cooked laban!! was wondering have u heard of that zahra cooked in yougurt but also with tahineh in there or does the palestinain one just use yogurt?

    1. That is great to hear 🙂 I am happy to know you are enjoying your Dima's Kitchen experience and finding that it is improving your skills. Do read the older posts, each post explores an aspect of the eating experience, and cooking methods so in the end it will all sink in and in no time, you will find that you are becoming more seasoned in your kitchen, and that is ultimately my goal :))
      Yes I have, I will try and post a recipe for you ASAP..

  10. Dima, I am making this with goat meat this weekend and I attempted to make my own goat milk yogurt. It was a little thin but I wanted to do it authintic. Should I use the goat yogurt and mix with the regular yogurt? The goat yogurt is very sour like you say the jameed should be. I am looking so forward to making this dish;) Thank you so much for all the detailed information.
    Dawn

    1. Wow! Making your own goat milk yogurt, that is fantastic! Yes you can mix both yogurts, infact using goat's yogurt makes it richer.
      Glad you are enjoying my blog and look forward to hearing from you again soon 🙂

    1. You are always welcome Arva, am glad you found what you are looking for in my post 🙂 If you need more info about mansaf I would be more than happy to cook it for you to try and we can sit n talk about all you need to know.
      thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

  11. Does anybody know how and can provide detailed instructions or where exists detailed instructions on how to make Jameed? I have been looking and looking, since being told about Mansaf (I love lamb!), but where I live here in Ontario, cannot find a source for Jameed.

    I can however, get goat's milk and am considering trying to make my own Jameed. It might be a fun experiment, but wish I could find detailed instructions on this.

    Thanks!

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