One thing is clear: Za’atar seems to be many things, and everyone has a different opinion on what Za’atar actually is.
Having talked to a local chef, we settled on the fact that Za’atar can refer to a herb mix, as well as the herb itself (which is very similar or even the same as oregano).
What do you use it for?
Za’atar is very popular in the Middle East and definitely not one of the things you should miss while in Jordan! It is often used as a dip, on bread, for seasoning meat and vegetables or some even sprinkle it into hummus or yoghurt.
Where does it come from?
The Za’atar spice grows in the north of Jordan and in the Mediterranean Middle East. It has to be cleaned, dried and ground before it is mixed with other spices. Once it’s mixed, that is the Za’atar you can buy in the shops and on the markets. Ingredients and taste of Za’atar tend to vary slightly depending on the region, but you can always ask for the ingredients or to try it first.
Recipe for Manakish Za’atar
We asked the local chef for the most popular recipe with Za’atar: It’s Manakish Za’atar! It’s easily done, and every bloody beginner can do it: Simply mix the Za’atar spice (or oregano, whatever you have at hand) with sesame seeds and lemon salt, then add some oil to make it into a paste. Spread the mixture (Za’atar) on flat bread and chuck it into the oven for 10 minutes. Done.
If you feel like this is not enough, you can also add grated cheese into the mix (Gibna Manakish), or meat with onions and tomato (Lachma Manakish)!