New discoveries is the whole point of travelling, and boy is it fun! In this café I was able to discover more about the people and the food of Jordan, and the more I learn the more I love it!
So, this post serves as a recommendation both of a restaurant, but also of Jordanian culture; I hope that in reading my learnings, you will find something to love too!
Shams El Balad is a true gem amongst the food spots of Amman; it’s a place where, despite the never-ending change and turn of the world, things are brought back to basics, returning to the traditions of the Jordanian kitchen.
The whole concept of Shams is bringing back Jordanian culture, the heart of which is in the kitchen. (I’m pretty sure heart and stomach are synonymous in this culture…)
The cuisine of Jordan is important to its people because it’s where they come together, to forget the world, forget the disagreements, and join with one another, literally, around the same plate.
When I asked one of Shams’ chefs: what is the most important thing in your cooking, I was rewarded with the answer: “Celebrating the kitchen” (how lush is that?). The truth of that mantra was profoundly visible in both the behaviour of the staff and the presentation and quality of the food.
How could you not celebrate the kitchen here?
The flavours they create are exceptional; this is one of the few places where everything is one hundred per cent organic and fresh from the farms, and you can definitely taste it!
The Shams group focus on sustainable industry, partnering with an NGO that promotes creating a more sustainable Jordan. They ensure every step of the process, from farming to making to serving, is serving the community.
Take for example the bread:freshly baked in Madaba early each morning then delivered that day before Shams opens its doors; this partnership ensures local bakers and their families are supported.
This concept is fundamental in the idea of bringing back old Jordanian tradition, because value is put on being a family and a community who collectively support one another.
As well as being a rarity in using wholly organic produce, Shams El Balad is also original because it is completely vegetarian, with many vegan options on the menu too. So if you’re struggling for veggie options in Amman, this place could be your new home…
The large outside terrace has views out to the citadel and colourful seating shaded by trees, which are filled with chirping birds; it’s rather idyllic!
The food is divine, so colourful and flavoursome- and it’s all due to the freshness of the ingredients! You know for certain there are no hidden nasties, and can feel the goodness that the food- full of vitamins, minerals and healthy proteins- is doing to your body.
A whole selection of vegetable and fruit salads, mezze dips, plus some phenomenal manakish and more is on offer, including a divine pan-fried cauliflower fritter- Mshat- served with hummus and sprinkled with sumac.
The dishes of Jordan, which have become so well known and loved in family homes and restaurants alike, all came about from the old way of cooking what you’ve got in your kitchen, and making the most of it. Shams captures this by using only seasonal produce, meaning there are some creative twists on their traditional dishes, for example: cheese manakish topped with aubergine!
In this way, you do not waste, you do not import, but you do get the best flavour-wise: seasonal is where the goodness is!
Every detail, from the many mezze options and sharing plates, to the round tables, to the smiling and hospitable staff all points back to tradition: sharing, friendship, and a collective celebration of the kitchen.
This place is both phenomenal and inspiring in its flavours, in the way it looks at the world, and in the way it captures this wonderful county.
Go traditional. Go organic. Go to Shams.