On the Dead Sea Highway, between Ghor Saafi police station and the 181km Aqaba milestone, lies Jordan’s best kept bakery secret: taboon.
On our journey to Feynan Ecolodge the other day, me and my colleagues had wound past the Dead Sea and were on the flatter, straighter road that passes lots of tomato farms well on our way to the lodge from our office in Amman.
“Why are we stopping?” I asked as we pulled over seemingly in the middle of nowhere and Mohammad Ali, our lodge duty manager jumped out and dashed across the road.
“Every time we drive past here, Mohammad tells me there is a woman who makes the best bread in Jordan” explains our operations manager Bisher. “I call him a liar! There is no such thing here! Just a stall with a few tomatoes and eggplants! He says he will prove me wrong”
Mohammad reappears from a small hut by the stall and beckons for Bisher to follow him. They disappear behind a low breeze block wall where the lady minding the stall appears with a bucket with bread in it.
Back in the car, Mohammad passes me a bag with four round loaves, steaming fresh in the plastic bag.
“Taboon” comes the reply.
Taboon is the name of this bread. It’s flat and round, fresh from the oven and nearly too hot to hold. But the smell is too enticing so we tear it and pass it round: golden and crispy on the outside, flaky as you tear it, soft on the inside and tasting of all the wonderful smells of a bakery.
Taboon is also the name of the oval, domed oven that the bread is cooked in. The flat, round loaves of bread are laid inside the oven on top of hot stones, over a fire that is sunk into the ground. The whole thing is covered in sand whilst the bread bakes in its underground oven with the hot stones creating the unique dimpled appearance of the bread.
This is simple bread, eaten by people all over Jordan and my colleagues discuss the taboon they have at home or in Amman. I’ve just not come across it before, or at least not like this.
Simple though it might be, this is simplicity at its best. It would be great accompanied by some of those tomatoes the lady is also selling, or just with local olive oil and Jordan’s famous zaatar herb mix. From the silence in the car, it’s safe to assume that we were happy just to eat it on its own, fresh from the oven, pure baked bliss. Even Bisher concedes Mohammad was right on this one – it’s the best he’s tasted.
Our stop at this bakery was a complete surprise so I didn’t get a chance to take much notice, let alone a photo of the location, the stall, or the talented baker who runs it. But perhaps that’s a good thing – I can leave you to discover Jordan’s best kept bakery secret for yourself.
Back on the road, as we munch on the delicious bread, a sly smile from Mohammad says he knows he was right; there is a baker on the side of the road where a woman makes the best bread in Jordan. And I think I’m going to go ahead and agree with him.