Mansaf (Arabic: منسف) is a traditional Jordanian dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice or bulgur. It is the national dish of Jordan. It can also be found in parts of the West bank. The name of the dish comes from the term “large tray” or “large dish”.
The lamb is cooked in a broth made with a fermented then dried yogurt-like product called jameed, and served on a large platter with a layer of flatbread (markook or shrak) topped with rice and then meat, garnished with almonds and pine nuts, and then sauce poured over all. A spice mixture called baharat adds distinctive flavour.
Mansaf is unique to Jordan and it’s the most distinctive Jordanian dish, and the national dish of Jordan, thus Mansaf on the menu is the greatest symbol in Jordanian culture for generosity. Mansaf, as historian and anthropologist Yousef Ghawanmeh demonstrate in his book the cultural history of Jordan during the Mamluk period 1250-1517, is associated with a traditional Jordanian culture based on an agro-pastoral lifestyle in which meat and yogurt are readily available. Mansaf is served on special occasions such as weddings, births and graduations, or to honor a guest, and on major holidays such as Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha, Christmas Day, Easter and Jordan’s Independence Day. It is traditionally eaten collectively from a large platter in the Bedouin and rural style, standing around the platter with the left hand behind the back and using the right hand instead of utensils. Al Karak is widely accepted by citizens as the mansaf “capital” of Jordan.
The cities of Al Karak and As-Salt and their countrysides are reputed to make the best mansaf in Jordan. Other variants of the dish also exist and are adapted to the regional tastes and circumstance. These include fish mansaf, found in the south around the port city of Aqaba. An urban, less ceremonial adaptation of mansaf using non-dried yogurt is called shakreyyeh. It is sometimes cooked with poultry instead of lamb and is common in the northern part of Jordan.