Truthfully, I have mixed feelings about rice. In countries where it is one of the staple starches – as opposed to it being the go-to starch – I either never want it or expressly want it. For example, in China, even though noodles (wheat) is a northern thing, from having lived in the south for the majority of the time, I only ever want rice. But with Indian food, with its naan and dosa, rice should stay far away from my plate.
It doesn’t make much sense, hey?
Cut to Amman, Jordan, located in a region known both rice and bread such as pita. Now, although I can drown a plate of rice in olive oil, my favorite condiment, with the pita you can sop up olive oil, hummus and other mezze (side dishes). Pita: 1, rice: negligible impression.
At the same time – are you ready for it? – rice is food. I like food. I like rice. Enter mansaf, Jordan’s “national dish:”
Mansaf is a rice- and lamb– focused meal cooked in jameed (dehydrated goat’s milk yoghurt) and topped with almonds and pine nuts. It’s difficult for me to get excited about pilaf-style mains, but I’ll give Jordan credit for adding banchan, in this case olives, peppers and an ashtray, that help distract from the monotony of the dish.
When you travel, do you try to seek out “national dishes?” What is your national and/or regional dish?