Mansaf is a traditional Arabic lamb dish that is cooked in yogurt sauce. It is considered a national dish of Jordan which is served with rice and flatbread.
Jordan is home to one of the best Middle Eastern cuisines, which is similar to other Mediterranean and Levantine dishes. If you visit there, regardless of the occasion, most locals will recommend you two popular dishes to try- Maqluba and Mansaf. In this post, let’s talk about the latter.
In the old centuries, the local Jordanian tribes called Bedouin was the first to introduce the dish called Mansaf. Throughout these years, it started to modernize by introducing rice and yogurt called Jameed, which is a dry yogurt made from goat’s milk. Furthermore, when the country got its independence, it officially became its national dish.
WHAT IS MANSAF?
It is a traditional dish from Jordan which is cooked using Jameed or plain yogurt sauce. The yogurt is combined with the broth of the Lamb that is boiled for many hours using different spices. It is served in a large serving platter where it is divided into 3 layers:
Firstly, we use a large thin flatbread called Markook (OR shrak bread in English), which we tear into smaller pieces and put around the plate. Secondly, the cooked turmeric rice is added above the flatbread, that is followed by lamb meats. Lastly, you pour the yogurt soup on it and sprinkle it with chopped parsley and fried almonds or pine nuts.
This dish is served during special occasions, national or religious holidays like Ramadan, or inviting special guests. I remember when I visited Jordan for the first time, my close relative made this dish since we were their guest in the house.
As a half Jordanian, Mansaf is important to us since this is part of our cultural heritage. In this post, you will learn the recipe that I learned from my father, that he learned from his mother.
There are several important ingredients you need to make this delicious Jordanian mansaf recipe:
I. MEAT: The meat I am using in this recipe is a mix of Lamb bone-in cuts which I let the butcher chop into smaller pieces. You can use Lamb shank, leg, or any part you like, as long you manage to have them chop into pieces.
II. YOGURT: Traditionally, locals use the dry goat’s milk called Jameed. However, in this recipe, I am using just plain yogurt. Some versions of Mansaf, like my recipe, prefer to use plain yogurt or Greek yogurt.
That is because it does not have an overwhelming taste and smell of goat’s milk, which is salty and sour. Also, because I live in an Asian country, it is not easy to find the ingredient Jameed. Nonetheless, it doesn’t matter since the taste is still delicious.
III. SPICES: When you are boiling the lamb, I add a few spices to make sure the broth is flavorful. These spices include cinnamon stick, allspice, cardamom, bay leaves, peppercorn, and cloves.
IV. CONDIMENTS: To enhance the flavor of this dish, I use garlic- that I sauteed in olive oil, and lemon juice which I later transfer all of them into my cooked yogurt sauce. Because Jameed has a natural sour taste, you will need lemon juice to add the sourness to the yogurt soup.
IV. RICE AND FLATBREAD: I am using long-grain rice which I mix with turmeric and olive oil.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTION
Cooking Mansaf is a complex process since there are 4 things you need to do: Cooking the Lamb; Making the Laban sauce; Cooking the yellow rice; and Assembling the Mansaf
I. COOKING THE LAMB
In this step, I pour water and put the lamb in the pot. When it is boiling, you will notice the meat will be releasing its excess fats or dirt, which I later remove all the boiled water and replace a new one. That is because in this process I am cleaning the meat through boiling.
When you replace it with clean water, turn on the fire let it boil. Once it is boiling, I add all spices and then I adjust it to low heat and cover with the lid. For the meat to become soft and tender, you will have to let it cook for 2 hours or until it becomes soft.
II. MAKING THE LABAN (YOGURT) SAUCE
To make the yogurt or laban sauce, I pour the plain yogurt and water into the blender to help liquefy the sauce.
Next, I transfer the blended yogurt sauce into the new pot, which I use the large cooking spoon to gently stir the sauce for 3 to 5 minutes. After that, I add the meat and the broth from the cooked lamb.
Lastly, in a separate pan, I sauté the chopped garlic till it turns light brown, which I transfer into the laban sauce. Add lemon juice and stir to combine to add sourness.
And now you’re done with the sauce, you still need to make the rice.
III. MAKING THE YELLOW RICE
Cooking a rice is the same like other rice dish which is easy.
First, I add olive oil to the pot before I added the rice. I let it stir for 30 seconds before I add salt and turmeric powder. I give it a quick stir for one more time before I pour water into the pot
Make sure you lower the heat to simmer when it started to boil so the rice is cooked thoroughly.
IV. ASSEMBLING THE MANSAF
For presentation purposes, I use a large serving plate which is common to do in our Jordanian culture.
On this plate, I put the flatbread, which I tear into small pieces, around the plate. Next, I add the rice and then the lamb meat. After that, I pour the soup around rice and lamb using the ladle spoon.
And lastly, before you dig in, sprinkle with chopped parsley and fried almonds or any nuts you like. In my opinion, the nuts are not needed in this dish since they wouldn’t make any difference in terms of taste.
RECIPE TIPS AND HINTS
If you want to cook the lamb faster, use a pressure cooker instead of an ordinary cooking pot. The meat will be tender in less than an hour
Sautéing the chopped garlic in olive oil before putting it into the sauce will enhance the flavor and add aroma to the yogurt
In this Jordanian mansaf recipe, I am tearing the flatbread into pieces since I learned it from my father. But, you don’t have to if you like.
You can use Jasmine, Basmati, or any long or medium-grain rice.
If you don’t like to fry the Almond or Pine nuts, you can instead roast them.
If you don’t have shrak bread, you can use tortillas or any thin homemade flatbread
If you’ve never tried it please make sure to ask for it when you travel to Jordan
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