Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tabbouleh, Tea, and downTown Amman

This weekend has been full of exploring Amman and I am loving this city more and more. Amman is definitely underrated, considering its wealth of ancient ruins, colorful markets, and amazing food.

The first day I slept in, read a number of publications on the Jordan River Rehabilitation Project, and had breakfast with my host family and visiting host uncle and aunt. My host sister explained Jordanian meals to me. Basically, breakfast and dinner are largely the same thing of dipping pita bread in hummus, lebneh, olive oil, and za'atar (thyme). Lunch is the main meal of the day, when you have some sort of meat with rice, salad, and pita bread. There can be variations on this, such as instead of meat and rice to have cucumbers and eggplant stuffed with rice and shredded meat and baked in tomato sauce. So far everything is delicious and exploding with flavor, especially the salad.

This morning I learned how to make tabbouleh (the green to the right of the photo). Here is the recipe as I understood it after observing my host mother making it:

• Parsley
• Green chili pepper
• Tomatoes
• Bulgur
• Onions
• Mint leaves
• Olive oil
• Lemon juice
• Salt & Pepper

1. Finely chop parsley until it fills an entire bowl
2. Remove the seeds of one green chili pepper, mince the pepper, and add it to the mountain of parsley
3. Wash and finely chop 4 red tomatoes (they should be pea-sized) and add them to the parsley and the pepper
4. Peel and soak two large onions in water
5. Pour half a bag of small-sized bulgur onto the tomatoes and let them soak so they become soft
6. Mince the onions finely and add them to the salad
7. Add finely sliced mint leaves
8. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over the salad so it is shiny, not wet
9. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the tabbouleh and mix it
10. Serve with warm pita bread and hummus

Friday night we went to Souk Jara on Rainbow Street, where there was art, funny Jo Bedu t-shirts, and a little bracelet with a blue stone in which a man carved ماريال, my name in Arabic, so I bought it. Then we went to Saj, where the man made the bread from scratch, spread it with lebneh, added turkey, tomatoes, sliced black olives, and sliced sweet peppers, wrapped it up and put it in my hand, within about 5 minutes. To wash down the meal, I had freshly blended strawberry and kiwi juice. لذيذ!

Today I cancelled the day trip to the dead sea and instead slept in. In the morning I had turkish coffee and practically an all-Arabic conversation with my host mom. After showering and cleaning my room, I went downtown with a group of girls, which quickly diminished to two of us. The day was an adventure, starting with exploring the shops around Husseini Mosque and walking up a random stairwell with a gorgeous view of Amman. As we passed a sweet shop we had to stop because of the wonderful smell, and the guy offered us a taste of one of the cakes. Before we knew it he got us chairs from the coal shop next door (there were actually coal-blackened faces filling bags of coal) and had filled a bag of حلويات for us, that he insisted we take for free. Kindness has no limits in this country.

With our bag now full of honey-drenched pastries, we asked a group of Muslim women for the famous falafel place, Hashem. They directed us to a restaurant around the corner, eager to get to know where we are from and how long we have been in Amman. We were quickly ushered in to the restaurant where we were served bowls of hummus, falafel, pickles, and tomatoes as well as a bag of pita bread.

After a delicious meal and an offer to marry the brother of the guy sitting next to us, we moved on to the fruit and vegetable market. After leaving that market we stumbled upon the Nymphaeum and got exclusive access to the magnificent ruins, where we befriended three very curious cats. Down the street we came upon a tiny store overflowing with decades-old books. For two book nerds this was heaven. We befriended the fascinating Bedouin from Karak who ran the bookshop in the name of his grandfather, who had opened up a book shop in Jerusalem more than a hundred years ago. He served us tea, showed us his poetry and collections of books in Swedish, and gave us a good deal on postcards depicting Amman 50 years ago.

The day ended with our first successful attempt to take buses all the way home, although it took an hour due to traffic and convoluted bus routes. Tonight I introduced the other girls living in the building to Söder Te, which I will now have to import to the USA. I should get to bed now so I am rested for my first day of classes. تصبح على خير!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds amazing! I wish I could extend my Eurasian travels into Middle Eastern travels. Strangers things have happened. Continue having an amazing time!