mercoledì 22 ottobre 2014

Mansaf, a unique bedouin dish

Mansaf is a traditional bedouin Jordanian and Palestinian dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented
dried yogurt (jameed) and served with rice or bulgur. A plate that has become a national Jordanian dish, but is even commonly eaten in Palestine too. Sign of great generosity, mansaf is served on special occasions such as weddings, births and graduations, or to honor a guest, and on major holidays such as Eid, Christmas or Easter.

Matson (G. Eric and Edith) Photograph Collection(1935 Aug. 17.)
As bedouins lived in the dessert, they kept on moving in search for water and shelter from harsh weather. These relocations made them have a unique food diet, tradition and life style that can be easily linked this plate. Bedouin livelihood primarily involved herding of sheep, goats and camels that provided meat, milk products and wool. Meat was only eaten on special occasions (such as feasts, weddings and visits from guests) as this entailed slaughtering an animal and consuming it before the meat spoiled. Milk products made up a large portion of the traditional Bedouin diet. Fresh milk was used for cooking and drinking. One of the most important bedouin cousine ingredient is Jameed. Round white hard milk balls created out of goat milk and through a special preparation the mansaf plate is prepared and served.

How Jameed is made

The Goat's milk is put in a container to change from milk to yogurt. It is then placed in a sack (originally
made from goats' skin) and shaken to seperate the milk solids from liquids. In the old days, a Bedouin lady would sit and shake the milk till ready, but nowadays there are machines that carry out this step. The butter (milk solid) will then be taken and made into local ghee/butter. The remaining Soured Milk (liquids) is then heated to separate further. The whole separated mixture is then placed in a large cloth (kind of like a cheese cloth technique) to completely drain out all the remaining liquid. There will only remain Jabjab, which is the hard solid part. This is then mixed with salt, and left for a further 24 hours in the cloth to dry. Then it is taken out of the Cloth, and pressed together and shaped into balls, which are then left to sun-dry for 2-3 days. These Jameed balls will then be rock hard, and the name literally meaning solid is reflective of their dry solid state. These Jameed Balls can be stored for about a year, which is very convenient for dessert life, as they had no access to refrigeration and other storage options.
Then when ready to cook, the Jameed is rehydrated, by being broken up, soaked in water and rubed to go back into liquid state. It is then added to meat and broth, creating a yoghurt-based sauce.

Ways of eating:

It is traditionally eaten collectively from a large  platter and one should follow either one of the two hand codes. You start with picking up a small amount of rice and meat, compact it slightly, and bring it up to the mouth. No food should fall from the hand or the mouth as you eat, nor should your fingers touch your mouth; the food is flipped into the mouth from about an inch away. The second way is to form a ball of rice in the palms of their hands, constantly flipping the ball in the air because it is quite hot. Then, for those who are talented, the rice ball is flipped, sometimes from a foot away, into the mouth. In some situations the host will form the rice ball in his own hand for the guest of honor. Of course for those who don't know how to use one of the following hand codes, spoons can be asked for eating.
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