Mansaf

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A homecooked Mansaf, Amman, Jordan
A homecooked Mansaf, Amman, Jordan

Mansaf (Arabic,منسف ) is a traditional Bedouin recipe - and the the national dish of Jordan - as it represents the Jordanian culture for generosity. The level of generosity is determined by the amount of lamb presented.

Its main ingredients are lamb seasoned with aromatic herbs, rice, and a dried yoghurt-like product called jameed - all served with huge quantities of rice. Popular forms may include karaki jameed as an ingredient.

Feasting on Mansaf is taken seriously, and hours are spent in its preparations.

Contents

Preparation

Mansaf contains a thin layer of bread called shrak or Markook which is set at the bottom of the platter. The rice sits atop the bread and meat is placed atop the rice. Then the yoghurt sauce is applied liberally to the platter.

It is cooked in jameed (the Arabic word for dried yoghurt), which is then mixed with water in a tray to produce a creamy sauce. This is poured into a large stewing pot with chunks of lamb meat. The pot is put over an open fire. As the stew begins to warm, it is stirred to prevent the yoghurt from separating.

Large trays are covered with the doughy flat Arabic bread and dampened with yoghurt. On top of this, a layer of rice is heaped. The meat is then piled on top. Almonds, pine-kernels and other nuts may be sprinkled over the dish, which is then ready for serving.

Presentation

Traditionally Mansaf is collectively consumed from a large platter and eaten with the right hand and with the left hand behind the back rather than using utensils (although it has become acceptable for it to be eaten with a spoon from a normal plate) - the lack of utensils symbolizing a social/community gathering is at hand.

Traditionally only six or seven people stand around the Mansaf. The guests are the first to eat, followed by the host and their family once the guests are finished. It is occasionally served with the head of the animal, from which the meat was taken.

The placement of the head atop the dish symbolizes generosity which represents an elaborate sign of the host's appreciation for the guest. This is often done for ceremonious occasions such as weddings, child births, or as welcoming gestures to guests. It can be served with either sliced onions, spring onions, plain yoghurt, or sometimes a side-salad. The jameed may be served as complimentary drink.


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