Food Innovation Safari: Amman, Jordan

Egg Soldiers returns from another globe-trotting food safari, this time discovering authentic flavours of the Levant in Amman, the capital of Jordan in the Middle East, with the team revealing three interest areas for potential UK restaurant dish development
Food safari of Amman, Jordan
Amman - the capital and largest city of Jordan in the Levant. An ancient, vibrant metropolis boasting a fascinating food scene driven by all manner of meats, spices, oils, sauces, herbs and fermented dairy staples; it was a food tour we'd long-dreamed of here at Egg Soldiers HQ.

You can imagine our excitement when, just six weeks ago, our managing director and co-founder Stefan Cosser finally got the chance to lead our small team of retail and hospitality experts into the Arab city for a whistle-stop, five-day food safari, with Levantine-inspired dish development opportunities very much on the agenda for our pioneering food trends arm, Insights Lab.

“Levantine cuisine has been on the rise in the UK for a few years now, driven by consumer demand for new, globally-inspired eating experiences – and it was amazing to experience authentic iterations first-hand in the Jordanian capital," Stefan said.

“Now back on UK soil, our Insights Lab is already hard at work translating the team’s unique insights into meaningful innovation thought-starters for UK brands across both retail and foodservice, delivered via our growing suite of bespoke services that help businesses convert trends into concepts that really reach consumers.”

In this special edition of our Food Innovation Safari series, Stefan discusses three of the many highlights from the trip, from the perspective of UK food development.

Falafel sandwiches, Al Quds Falafel
Freshly ground chickpea mixes heading into the deep fryer at Al Quds
"Many of our clients are hot on street food, and for good reason, so we made a point of seeking out both traditional and innovative varieties of ka’ak, shawarma, fatteh and, of course, falafel around the beautiful city.

"As we had a guide with us, it didn't take long for the 'what's the best version of this in Amman' conversations to start up from our end. And, once falafel was mentioned, we quickly found ourselves at Al Quds Falafel which, as its name suggests, specialises in the ground chickpea-based street food staple, with our guide telling us it's the best we'll find in the city.

"Al Quds' menu is as simple as it comes: two types of falafel sandwich (regular, or 'Spicy' with the addition of Shatta - a fiery Middle Eastern chilli sauce), and two sizes of falafel plates (12 or 24 pieces).

"Al Quds has been trading since 1966, with the falafel sandwich its hero option. We're talking around 5-6 fresh falafel balls stuffed into freshly-baked Hamam bread (traditional gluten-free rolls), with tomatoes, pickles and tahini.

"We got one of each, and it was fairly clear which version stole the show. The falafels were very good, but the spicy, flavour overload from the rich, fermented Shatta really got our cogs turning."

Lamb Mansaf, Sufra
Lamb Mansaf at Sufra, Amman
“A standout visit for us was Sufra, one of the best restaurants in the Middle East found near the centre of Amman.

"It was day five by the time we got there, seeing as there were so many food spots to check off during our visit. And it was just a perfect way to round off the trip.

"We scored a great table and set about attacking the menu, which is styled as a celebration of classic Bedouin flavours and home-style Jordanian cooking.

"We sampled fukharat - slow-baked clay pots full of spiced meats and vegetables - and a raft of both hot and cold mezze options, including grilled Nabulsi (a white brined cheese), its homemade Sujuk (a dry, spicy and fermented sausage), and a superb pickled aubergine hummus sprinkled with walnuts.

"Then there was the Lamb Mansaf – a spectacular bone-on lamb leg with bulgur rice and Jameed, a fermented sheep’s yoghurt. The process of making Jameed is actually an ancient technique for preserving dairy, whereby salt is added to thicken yoghurt before being dried out, with Sufra rehydrating theirs and creating a paste/marinade for the slow-cooked lamb.

"Being Icelandic, there was something almost nostalgic about the sour/gamey combination of lamb mansaf, which is considered the national dish of Jordan. However, it wasn't to everyone's taste at the table, so perhaps not one for the UK market at present."
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Qahwa Sadad (Arabic Coffee)
European-style coffee at 12:12, Amman
"The other month, my co-founder Toph made a point of talking about Vietnamese coffee while on his own grand food safari across Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. And I'd say Jordanian coffee is also worth mentioning, specifically one traditional option.

"While European coffee norms are firmly established in Amman, traditional Bedouin influences are still prominent, with Qahwa Sadad, a staple black coffee made with green coffee beans and cardamom, another highlight of the trip.

"Served molten hot (as is the custom), and beyond black; Qahwa Sadad is full of flavour and deeply ingrained in Jordanian culture. Normally served with dates, Qahwa Sadad is drunk in small, espresso-style cups throughout the day, with the complex, aromatic cardamom flavour making it a rich, almost exotic drinking experience.

"Saffron is quite often part of proceedings with Qahwa Sadad, and the many flavours got us to thinking about incorporating fragrant cardamom/saffron spices with, perhaps, orange zest for a little zing, and either whipped or clotted cream for a new coffee offering.

"Orange Cream Spiced Latte, anyone?"
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