Sunday, March 20, 2005

Little Birds 

The Bedouins are only a small segment of the Jordanian population (around 10% I think) and can be basically compared to the American Indian population in the U.S. Most people here are recent Palestinian, Lebanese or Syrian immigrants but if they have been here longer then a couple of generations they are also considered native Jordanian. But because the combined Bedouin and "native Jordanian" population is still so small, they don't have many truly Jordanian cuisine. I have only learned of one dish, "Mansaf" a Bedouin lamb stew that I still have yet to try.

The other night I got to eat high-class Lebanese cuisine. Our friends Ali and Nada took us to a great restaurant called Fakhr El-Din (if you click you can see they actually have a website).

Being great hosts, our friends ordered for us tons of tapas-sized appetizers to sample. Unfortunately, by the time we had finished trying all the exotic first course dishes we had absolutely no room for the main course and decided to skip it.

Anyhow, the appetizers were wonderful. There was the traditional hummus and tabouli that I've grown up with, but they also had very unique dishes. From a steak tartar that was basically raw hamburger meat they smeared with garlic butter (which overpowered the taste of the meat), to fried frog legs (that dissapointingly taste like fried chicken). To what I thought was the most interesting dish, called 'Asafeer.' It looked like little sausages but when you looked closely there were bones sticking out of the meat and they had the shape of a little foul body. Asafeer translated means "little birds." I don't know exactly what kind of birds they are but was told they are the brown and white sparrow-like bird commonly seen on telephone lines in Amman.

You basically pop the Asafeer like popcorn, and swallow them bones and all similar to eating a sardine. The foreigners at the table were admittedly horrified, but I had to suck it up and try one.

They were actually really good. The bones gave them a crunch so they were textured nicely and since they were whole, they were very juicy. I ended up convincing all but one of the other foreigners to try them and they were all impressed.

Shane eating Asafeer.


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