World Cuisine: Jordanian Mansaf

By, Jessica Knutzon

A wonderful part of being a Thunderbird student is learning from your peers – especially about their favorite foods. In this week’s edition of Global Cuisine we asked first trimester student Munzer Fahoum about his favorite dish from his home country, Jordan.

It is Bedouin dish that is served in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Palestine, amongst other countries, called mansaf. Mansaf is the national dish of Jordan and it is served on a large plate intended to serve about five people per dish. There is a layer of flatbread covered in rice, lamb, almonds and pine nuts. As it is eaten, people pour a liquid yogurt, jameed, over it.

“There are rules to eating this dish,” Munzer explained, “You’re usually standing with your left hand behind your back. You take the rice with your right hand, make a ball of all the ingredients and use your thumb flick it into your mouth without touching your lips. It is important you stick to your area of the plate.  When you’re done you wipe your hand on the edge of the plate, you lick your hands and can’t touch the food again, then go wash your hands.”

I asked about when it is eaten, Munzer responded, “It is our national dish, but we usually eat it at large gatherings, happy or sad. When you want to honor someone – you get mansaf. For example, our funerals are meant to distract the family, so we often make mansaf to help make the loved ones feel better and enjoy the time.” The dessert, knafeh, is the same size and is served right after mansaf.

The magical thing about dishes from home are the memories that they create for people. “The first time I ate it I was ten. I remember the first time I ate it, it was introduced to me as the manly traditional dish, especially because it’s difficult to make the balls of rice. I observed everyone’s technique and my dad would try to teach me how to roll the best rice ball,” Munzer described. “The last time I ate it was about a month and half ago, right before I came here. During Ramadan this is served at buffets and I had it right before I left for Thunderbird. Some people drink arak with mansaf, which is like ouzo, but it’s difficult to have a drink since there’s isn’t usually place to keep your glass.”

When asked about how important it is to pass along the tradition of eating mansaf, he responded, “I want my future children to learn how to eat it. It’s very Jordanian and I like that.”

To learn more about mansaf and how to make it, check out this blog post on


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