Why It Works
Mansaf is the quintessential dish of Bedouins, the nomadic Arab those who dwell throughout the Center East and North Africa. Whereas many have deserted the nomadic life-style in favor of a extra trendy one, some components of their traditions stay intact, and parts of their delicacies have entered the mainstream tradition of the areas they inhabit. Mansaf and jameed, the dried yogurt that offers the dish its signature taste, are main examples. At the moment, this dish is taken into account one of many nationwide dishes of each Jordan and Palestine, two locations the place many Bedouins from the Arabian Peninsula emigrated to.
Mansaf was initially lamb cooked in a yogurt-based broth after which served over bread. Variations of it may be discovered within the oldest Arabic cookbooks on document from the tenth century. Initially, the form of yogurt diversified by season: If mansaf was cooked within the spring, they’d use recent yogurt, however in different seasons yogurt that had been dried to protect it might be used. At the moment, although, mansaf’s distinct style comes solely from jameed, the dried yogurt used to make the sauce.
Mansaf later advanced to incorporate rice or bulgur on prime of the bread, with these grains various by area to at the present time. At the moment, the platter is first layered with flatbread that’s basted with the jameed-based yogurt sauce. Rice is then scattered on prime and basted with extra sauce. Lastly, meat (often lamb, generally goat) is nestled on prime and scattered with toasted nuts. It is vitally widespread to serve the remaining yogurt on the facet for folks to pour extra over their particular person plates, and even to sip it straight out of a cup like soup.
Jameed’s origin, like many milk merchandise we get pleasure from at present, is a results of the hassle to protect dairy from one season to the following. Jameed was often ready within the spring when recent milk was plentiful. The milk could be soured into yogurt then churned to separate the butter from the buttermilk. The buttermilk could be heated till it curdled, and people solids could be strained, salted, and neglected to air-dry. Afterwards, they’d be formed into conic balls and neglected to dry for 2 to a few weeks within the solar, at which level they might final for months, even years.
At the moment, with refrigeration and the year-round availability of recent dairy merchandise, it may appear counterintuitive to nonetheless depend on dried dairy on this dish. Why not simply use yogurt as a substitute, as was the case centuries in the past when the seasons allowed it? The reply is, very merely, as a result of jameed’s taste has grow to be synonymous with mansaf itself. Simply as we nonetheless eat cheese even when its main function is not to stretch the edible window of milk, jameed presents a singular taste in any other case unattainable—strongly savory and tart, with the underlying aromas of goat or sheep milk. Contemporary yogurt simply does not style the identical.
As onerous as a rock, jameed needs to be reconstituted into yogurt by soaking it in water earlier than cooking with it. At the moment, industrial jameed is out there throughout the Arab world and even in sure Center Japanese grocery shops within the West. The standard, nevertheless, varies drastically from one producer to the following and it stays an merchandise not straightforward to supply. What’s extra available, nevertheless, is an already-reconstituted liquid kind bought in Tetra Paks, just like UHT milk. (Alternatively, if you will discover liquid Iranian kashk, it’s an nearly similar substitute.)
For the longest time, I refused to even contemplate these Tetra Paks of reconstituted jameed, turning into my grandmother or one among her buddies at even the considered it. In spite of everything, I’ve entry to good jameed as a result of my dad and mom mail it to me, and I may even make it myself at residence if I actually needed to. However within the curiosity of science (and with some light prodding by my editor after I initially balked on the suggestion), I purchased a pack to check out. To my shock (and biased dismay), it wasn’t dangerous! Is it similar to the unique model? No. It’s marginally saltier than do-it-yourself one, nevertheless it positively hearkens again to jameed’s taste and provides you with a extra trustworthy, umami-rich outcome than making an attempt to make mansaf with recent yogurt.
Now, even reconstituted jameed can fluctuate from model to model, so I can not advocate all of them outright, however Kasih and Ziyad are acknowledged manufacturers and even utilized by many within the Arab world. When utilizing reconstituted jameed, you often must dilute it with a roughly equal quantity (or a bit extra) of broth within the recipe, although the bundle directions ought to be consulted. Nonetheless, I like to recommend at all times beginning out with much less broth, after which including extra as essential to get the best taste, which ought to be pleasantly salty and tangy, nearly like a robust feta cheese.
As for presenting this dish, mansaf was historically served in large platters greater than two toes extensive, round which individuals gathered and ate with their fingers. At the moment, it’s nonetheless conventional to serve it in very giant platters, though every individual will spoon a portion on a separate plate as a substitute of consuming it straight out of the communal dish.
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