(Above: Halawat al-jibn / pastry, an indulgent roll of thick cream wrapped in a lighter skin of sweet cheese and semolina, doused with sugar water and covered with fresh crushed pistachios.)
Amman is humble and dense, a dusty makeshift capital developed by necessity, not design, for the waves of migrants and refugees who’ve fled to Jordan through the centuries. Its eastern side is packed with lower-income Jordanians and refugees surviving in tiny sand-colored rooms stacked on top of each other; its western side hosts flocks of humanitarian workers who’ve come for those refugees, living alongside diplomats, foreigners and other elites. The two sides intersect in the balad, Jordan’s ancient downtown center and the heartbeat of Amman, with staircases running like arteries up to different neighborhoods, most of them centered on hills–thus the names Jabal (mountain) Amman, Jabal al-Weibdeh, Jabal al-Akhdar, Jabal Hussein, and so on.
The best food in Amman isn’t what tourists are typically recommended but the secret, local places where the migrant population goes for the flavors and scents they miss the most. Here’s our guide to eating your way through them.
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Lahmacun, an Armenian flatbread ubiquitous in the Middle East, sometimes called “Armenian pizza.
Kahi, a flaky, layered bread in between a croissant and a mille-feuille, topped with gaymar, a thick, rich water buffalo cream that the bakery imports in bulk from Erbil
Masgouf- crispy, flaky carp is served with freshly baked tannour bread, salad, pickles, and a piquant mango chutney that the Iraqis copied from the Indians.
Two restaurants that share one kitchen: Bab al-Yemen and Sanaa, two branches of a Yemeni restaurant that serve rice-based dishes on one side and bread-based ones on the other, though you can order the same items from both.
Salah al-Din bakery for the city’s best-known ka’ak, a humble sesame sandwich that’s sustained its popularity even as borders close, bus lines shut down and wars tear across the region.
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