Wow! What a fantastic response I got from all of you about our move to Amman and my food project here! Thank you for being so supportive from near and far. I’m glad you are eager to learn more about our adventure and am thrilled to welcome so many new Ammanis to this foodie community – it makes it that much more fun for me to share everything with you. Now a quick post, and for those of you here in Amman, forgive me, but what’s old news to you is fascinating to the rest of us!
There’s this shopping district here in Amman called Sweifieh, and I have to say, I’m a little perturbed that my dear husband hasn’t brought me here on our many previous trips. And, I only discovered it because my mother-in-law asked for a ride to pick up some groceries one evening. It’s positively bustling from the early afternoon onwards and sells everything from made in China plastic crap to Medjool dates to herbal remedies to fish. As I wandered around that first evening, my mouth agape asking about this that and the other, my mother-in-law kept saying: “See! You always want to go to Cosmo. Cosmo this. Cosmo that. There’s no need!”
Now, she was referring to the large grocery chain here that sells everything, including lots of products from the US and UK, but at a premium. She was right, I had always asked to be taken there because I didn’t know this other option existed and because going downtown to the market is just a bridge too far on most days if you consider the terrible traffic jams here. I always choose the local option over imported goods and hope to do so as much as possible in my business here.
Anyway, the main food shopping block (which I can’t find a name for on google maps) smells of freshly baked bread and coffee. On one corner is Sufara Bakery and across the street Bin Izheiman – purveyors extraordinaire of coffee and every other dry good under the sun. Whole Foods bulk foods section, eat your heart out! So while the boy at Bin Izheiman ground coffee to my husband’s precise specifications, I wandered around the shop marvelling at the dried grains, beans, pasta, nuts, rice, flours, fruits, and huge section of herbal remedies (dried corn silks anyone?). A couple of doors down, a candy shop with watermelon seeds being roasted in huge rotating bins. We found nice looking fish, not easy to find nor traditionally eaten much here, at a little chain called Ocean just next door.
Now, praying the drivers will stop for you as you cross the street, to Sufara Bakery. I’m told bread prices are subsidised by the government here – so it’s cheap and terrifically popular. A meal is not complete here without rice and bread. Through the sliding glass doors and past the security guard, I admired the bins of kak and taboon and mana’eesh and all manner of what we call pita bread. A worker handed me one of the zaatar and sesame seed breadsticks to munch on as I browsed. There are crackers and cookies and croissants and pastries and breadsticks galore! In the back I could see stacks of freshly baked Arabic bread sliding down from the bakery above where they’re baked, bagged, and before being doled out to eager and aggressive shoppers. There are no gloves here (even though the sign says they must be used), people poke and prod before choosing their loaves, and the lighting is dismal, and the customers jostle each other at will, but I loved it.