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Petra Kitchen, Now you're cooking title image

What fun to eat in a restaurant where you get to prepare you own meal under the eye of a watchful chef before dining. It's even better when the recipes are local favorites from an exotic country you are visiting for the first time. I got to do just that on a recent trip to Jordan when we experienced Petra Kitchen.
Petro Kitchen's manager, Ali, holding menue sign and bowls of food on table
Petro Kitchen's manager, Ali, shows us what we will be making

Petra Kitchen is just across the street from arguably the most celebrated archeological site in the world, Petra. It's not a restaurant per se. It's more like going to your grandmother's kitchen and helping prepare the meal for a big family occasion. That is if your grandmother was Jordanian and cooked Baba Ganue and Salatat Kyhyar and had a kitchen the size of a convenience store and food and supplies to match, but you get the idea.

four peole contribute to bread making at Petra Kitchen
Cooperation is what it takes

Friendly waiters served us drinks. Mine, Moath, was a sweetie and got me extra ice. Then we put on aprons and gloves and Ali Alnawafleh, the manager, introduced us to our head chef and instructor for the evening, Tariq Alnawafleh, who set us up at the tables and began to show his skill with a chopping knife as we began cutting up the onions, peppers, parsley and other vegetables we were using to prepare the evening meal.

The assistant chef at Petra Kitchen plating the triangles
The assistant chef plating the triangles

We began preparing Lentil Soup and a group of mezzas or what we would consider salads and appetizers. There were three tables of us chopping and dicing so we turned out a nice array. A couple of my favorites were Fatoosh, a Cucumber and Tomato Salad and Bedouin Pizza called Araies lahma; it's made between the layers of Pita bread. Of course we made the bread, too.

chef assists two momen wiht bread making at Petra Kitchen
Our chef explains the intricacies of bread making

Since we had so many of us preparers working along with our chef and his assistant, Mustafa Al Fdool, and  Saja Almomany, a  local women who works with the chefs, the evening progressed rapidly and pleasantly. I learned a new trick about grating the garlic by rubbing with salt using a flat knife blade from the chef.  Saja worked at our table for part of the evening and she confided that her dream is to one day own her own restaurant. Considering she is an excellent chef, I can see that dream coming true.

Muslim and American woman at table preparting food at Petra Kitchen
Saja, who will one day own her restaurant, with one of our group, Janice

Our main course was Kabsah dijaj, a chicken with rice dish all cooked in one large black pot. The trick with this one is adding the ingredients at the right time and then being able to successfully invert the contents to a large serving dish. I made a few of these dished including the Chicken and Rise at home later and that was the hardest part. I did manage to get it inverted without dumping any of the goodies on the table but if you try it use some very good pot holders and work over a good clean surface. It is really easy to spill things as you turn that big hot pot upside down.

set table with food at Petra Kitchen
All finished, the full table awaits us.

Cooking with locals at Petra Kitchen is a fun way to spend an evening and the food comes out delicious. After all with such dedicated cooks how could it not? I have included the recipes for you to try at home.



Recipes courtesy of Petra Kitchen

Lentil Soup (Shourbat Adas)

1 cup brown lentils                                            6 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt                                    1 onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup olive oil or ghee                        1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped                      a dash of pepper

       Croutons for garnish                                             

       Rinse lentils and drain.

       Place in a saucepan with the water over medium heat and bring to a boil.

       Reduce heat and simmer for half an hour.

       Remove from heat; strain the lentil mixture through a vegetable strainer.

       Return the pureed lentil mixture to pot; cook over medium heat and stir in cumin, salt and pepper.

       Brown the chopped onion in oil or ghee, then add to the lentil mixture.

       Cook the lentils and onion over medium heat for 5 minutes only.

       Sprinkle the soup with chopped parsley and croutons.


Baba Ganuj (Baba Ganuj)

2 lb (1 kg) eggplants

1 large tomato

1 green pepper

1 medium onion

2 garlic cloves

1 T. salt

1 T. mint

2 T. olive oil

2 T. lemon juice

2 T. Pomegranate Molasses


  Roast the eggplants on baking dish in medium over approximately one hour, until the skin is charred and begins to split.

  When eggplants are cool enough to handle, break open and scoop out the pulp.

  Mash the pulp with a fork to a smooth puree.  Add olive oil and lemon juice.

  Chop tomato, pepper and onion very finely.  Add them to eggplant puree and stir.

  Crush garlic in pestle with salt.  Stir into juice and olive oil. 

  Add liquid to vegetables and mix together well.  Stir in mint.

  Serve in shallow bowl with garnish or tomatoes or parsley sprigs.


Tahina Salad (Salatat Khodra bil Tahina)


3 large tomatoes

3 medium cucumbers

1 hot green pepper

1 small onion

� C. tahina

1 C. finely chopped parsley

Juice of one lemon

1 t. salt

� C. vinegar

2 garlic cloves


  Peel and dice cucumbers and onions.

  Chop tomatoes very finely.  Combine with cucumbers and onions.

  Mince hot pepper and add to vegetables.

  Crush garlic with salt.  Stir into dressing of tahina, lemon juice, vinegar and salt.

  Mixture should be the consistency of cream.  If too thick, add a little water to thin.

  Pour tahina mixture over vegetables and stir well.  Serve with garnish of parsley sprigs.



Galayat Bandura (Galayat Bandura)


1 lb ( � kg) tomatoes

4 garlic cloves

� C. olive oil

C Pine nuts

2 green chili peppers

1 t. salt


  Saute the pine nuts in oil until light brown.  Remove from oil and reserve as garnish.

  Chop tomatoes and chilies finely.

  Slice garlic and saute in the same oil until light brown.  Add tomatoes, chilies and salt. 

  Bring to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

  Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.

  Pour into shallow serving dish and garnish with pine nuts.


Galayat bandura is a popular dish which can be found served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as hot mezza or main course.  "Galayat" is the Arabic word for "skillet," so the name literally translated would be "skillet of tomatoes." 


Cucumber and Tomato Salad (Fatoosh)


1 lb. (1/2 kg) cucumber

1 medium-sized head of lettuce

1 round pita bread

1 lb. (1/2 kg) tomatoes

10 small radishes

1 t. salt

2 garlic cloves

Juice of one lemon

2 T. vinegar

� C. olive oil

� C. fresh mint leaves

1 onion

� C. chopped parsley

2 t. sumac


  Toast bread and break into small pieces (crouton sized).

  Chop the vegetables.

  Crush garlic with salt.  Stir into lemon juice, and add olive oil, vinegar, mint and parsley.

  Add dressing mixture to vegetables and toss well.

Sprinkle sumac on salad for color and flavor.  Garnish with toasted bread pieces and serve.

Bedouin Pizza (Araies lahma)


1 lb ( � kg) ground meat

2 tomatoes

1 medium-sized onion

1 t. salt

� C. olive oil

Flat bread (pita)

1 green chili pepper

1 t. cumin

2 cloves garlic



  Mix the meat with chopped tomatoes and onion in a blender or food processor.

  Add salt, minced chili, crushed garlic and cumin to ground meat and mix well.

  Cut each round of pita bread into two pockets.  Stuff each pocket with a thin layer of the meat mixture.

  Paint bread with olive oil and arrange in baking dish.

  Bake in 180� (C.) oven for 7 minutes,  Turn the pieces and continue baking another 5 minutes.

Serve hot from the oven.


Cucumber and Yoghurt salad (Salatat Khyar)

1 lb ( � kg) cucumber

2 lb (1 kg) yoghurt

2garlic cloves

1 T. salt

1 T. Chopped fresh mint or diced dried mint


  Peel and dice cucumbers.

  Crush garlic with salt and mint, then stir into yoghurt.

  Add cucumbers to yoghurt and mix.  Serve with mint garnish.


Dough for triangles (Sambousek)

2 C. flour

� C. warm water

� t. salt

Pinch sugar

2 t. active dry yeast

1/3 C. vegetable oil

1. Egg

2 t. Milk


  Dissolve yeast in 4 t. warm water until smooth.

  Sift sugar, salt and flour into large bowl. Pour yeast water, oil and remaining warm water into center of bowl.

  Mix well by hand until smooth.

  Transfer to floured flat surface and knead well by hand. 

  Place mixture in oiled bowl.  Cover with clean cloth, and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.

  Return dough to floured flat surface and knead well again.

  Divide dough into small balls and roll flat into 8-inch (20 cm) circles.

  Flute edges of each circle with your fingertips.


Cheese triangles (Sambousek b'jibn)


Sambousek dough

1C. grated white cheese

� C. grated gruyere cheese or feta cheese to taste

1 onion, finely chopped


1 T. sesame seeds


  Mix stuffing ingredients together and stir well.

  Place one heaping tablespoon of stuffing onto each dough circle.  Fold dough to form a rounded triangle.

  Pan fry in oil until golden in color, turning to cook each side.

  Serve hot.


Hint:  Keep prepared triangles under damp paper towel until ready to cook to avoid drying out.

Planning for guests?  Prepare sambousek in advance and freeze prepared pastries before frying.  Thaw and fry before the big event.


Thyme triangles (Sambousek b'zatar)


Sambousek dough

6 T. crushed dried thyme

� C. olive oil



  Mix thyme and oil together and stir well.

  Place one heaping tablespoon of stuffing onto each dough circle.  Fold dough to form a rounded triangle.

  Pan fry in oil until golden in color, turning to cook each side.

  Serve hot. 


Rice with Chicken (Kabsah dijaj)

2 chickens quartered

1 C. garden peas

1 lb ( � kg) carrots

4 C. basmati rice

4 medium tomatoes

4 medium onions

1 t. tomato paste

� C. clove

1 t. black pepper

1 t. lome ( Dry Lemon )

1 t. cardamom

1 � t. salt

7 cups Chicken Stock

1t nutmeg


  Wash chicken quarters well.  Rub with salt and wash again.  Drain on paper towels.

  Finely chop the tomatoes and onions.

  Dice carrots.

  Heat butter and saute onions for 2 minutes in a deep cooking pot.

  Add chicken pieces and saute for 5 minutes.

  Stir in hot water, tomatoes and tomato paste.

  Add salt, spices and cook for 30 minutes over medium heat.

  Wash the rice and mix with carrots and peas.   Place on top of chicken and cover.  Cook for 40 minutes.

  Invert on serving platter.  Serve with side dishes of Arabic salad and yoghurt.


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