Cousin Plate-O is back again, featuring a classic Jordanian breakfast with infinite possibilities stuffed inside- for more of his adventures, find him at In His Majesty’s Scholarly Service. I should’ve known this already, but it turns out that the best part of hosting one’s family at one’s workplace is using them as an excuse to take a break from the normal eating routine. When most of your meals are of the school-dining-hall variety, as mine are, this opportunity takes on a particular significance, and it was with extreme gusto that I forewent my typical breakfast to indulge in a Jordanian specialty.
Ah, mana’eesh. Manaqeesh? Manageesh? Manakeesh? Thanks to the wonders of Arabic, these are all legitimate ways to pronounce this perfectly simple agglomeration of dough, cheese, and spices. I’ll stick with the first one because it’s the most urbane, as befits my cosmopolitan lifestyle.
Something of a breakfast staple in Jordan, or at least in Jordanian high schools, mana’eesh hits all the high points of a good savory breakfast. Classic Jordanian flat bread is folded around your choice of toppings, then toasted to achieve that golden ratio of crispy char and pillowy puffiness. The dough is spiked with a touch of sugar, enough to give it a murmur of sweetness that provides an excellent counterbalance to the salt and grease within.
And oh, what salt and grease it is. My preferred mana’eesh filling is halloumi cheese and za’atar, the olive-green mixture of thyme, sesame seeds, and an endlessly varying collection of other spices (basil, marjoram, cumin, you name it) without which no Jordanian breakfast is complete. The halloumi’s gooey, pan-seared richness meets the tang and texture of za’atar like twins separated at birth; tasting them together, you begin to understand why Amman was originally called Philadelphia (that is, the City of Brotherly Love). Wrap it all up in the warm embrace of that bread and you’ve got one happy culinary family to kick off your morning.