Everywhere has them, I suppose. The naughty but nice hot streetside foods that define a city, to my tastebuds at least.
In London, it’s roast chestnuts, steam smoking into the winter sky while amber embers blaze. In New York, it’s bagels, my first plaited bread sticks studded with cubic salt. Singapore surprised with the ice cream sandwich and in one of the oldest cities in the world, it was knafeh.
Now, London, and even New York, have influenced world history over the centuries but they’re spring city chickens when compared to Amman in Jordan. As one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, in one of the spiritual hot spots of the world, Amman’s family tree kicks off over 9000 years ago and never let’s up. It’s like an Old Testament line up: Ammonites, Assyrians, Persians, Macedonians and Nabateans before we even catch up to around 2000 years ago and the entrance stage right of the Romans.
Architecture abounds, as do the legends, scattered across the sands and through the fertile valleys that reach the Red Sea.
Yet for all the architecture, the woven threads and glinting coins in the museum beside the amphitheatre; the hilltop citadel with the fallen hand of Hercules and the monumental Greco-Roman city of Jerash…what stood out on this particular visit was hot, orange and came served on a paper plate.
Hot, orange and served on a paper plate
Knafeh, like the stone and sand of Amman itself, has a deliciously rich history (and flavour, but we’ll come to that in a minute.)
It’s claimed across the Levant (a term that broadly incorporates modern day Jordan, Israel, Syria and the Lebanon) and it’s often bright orange.
It’s also delirious with calories as a butter-soaked slab of cheese rolled or pressed between syrup-soaked angel hair and sprinkled with rosewater and chopped pistachios.
Piping hot, it’s butteringly eye-wateringly delicious, (though the taste decays as it cools.) Still, that doesn’t matter. It’s a snack to be shared on the run in the nooks and alleyways of the city as workmen and city men, veiled women and those with bouncing curls congregate for fleeting moments in the oldest city in the world (more or less.)
See, that’s what I love so much about knafeh, roast chestnuts, bagels and even currywurst.
They’re all flavours of great old cities that are still very much alive.
I travelled to Jordan as part of iAmbassador’s #GoJordan project in partnership with Visit Jordan. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like and eat what I like. And I did like that knafeh. Mmmmm…