The best thing I have ever eaten was a giant plate of culture. Literally.
Allow me to explain…
We’re in Jordan. Petra, to be exact. It’s everything a foreign adventure should be. The history is overwhelming. The language barrier is huge. The feet are aching. The sweat is dripping. The mouth is watering.
We crawl back to our homestay accommodation after a mind-blowing yet physically excruciating day of clambering through the ruins of an ancient civilisation too old to comprehend. We’re covered from head to toe in red dust; proof of our day’s accomplishments. The picnic we enjoyed at lunch feels like it was days ago, not hours. And the smell I suddenly notice is nothing short of mesmerising.
We step inside our Bedouin-tent-inspired room and dive to the floor. Which is also our bed.
In walks our host, with a huge serving dish piled high with bright yellow turmeric rice, chicken pieces sitting atop the rice dripping with a creamy sauce – the smell from before – dressed with almonds, pine nuts, onion, parsley and pita bread. Wow.
Turns out it’s a Jordanian staple; mansaf chicken.
It tastes just like it smells. It’s sort of sour, sweet, fragrant and meaty all at the same time. We eat with our hands, the meat is falling off the bone and the textures of the soft meat, fluffy rice, crunchy nuts, crisp onions and silky sauce are the perfect combination.
Sitting on the floor eating mansaf with my hands is the ‘furthest from home’ I’ve ever felt. Just like the culture in Jordan itself, the dish assaulted all of my senses at the same time – in a good way.
Jordanian food has something special…it has soul. And that soul is mighty tasty. Food with soul is worth searching the world to find…or at least worth attempting to re-create in your own home!
Mansaf chicken holds a special place in my heart. Whenever I want to escape and feel like I am on the other side of the world, I cover the lounge room floor in cushions, make sweet sage tea and eat mansaf chicken with my hands. And given that the main ingredient is fermented yogurt, I think it’s fair to say that it really is a plate full of culture. Pun intended.
What are your favourite exotic experiences that you bring into your everyday life? Share your ideas in the comments!