There is little doubt that eggplant is one of the most under-utilized vegetables around. While it may not have the same cultural significance as tomatoes, eggplant is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine and more. For example, the meal known as “mouttabal”, a popular Jordanian dish, contains eggplant, tomato paste, garlic, and olive oil. This recipe is one of my favorites, and is a perfect example of the eggplant’s versatility.
Mouttabal is a traditional Jordanian street food. It’s a simple, delicious and healthy dish made with roasted eggplant, grilled tomatoes, onions and spices. The name means “dried meat” in Arabic, as it uses a dried meat for the filling. Below is the recipe for Mouttabal.
Today’s recipe is for something that is not found in every cookbook or on every dinner table. Well, there are a couple of things one might find in a cookbook or on a dinner table in the Middle East, but I’m not talking about those. This recipe is for something quite exotic when we get to speak of the Middle East, and that is the Mouttabal, a type of eggplant used in Jordanian cuisine.
Mouttabal (also spelt moutabbal or muttabal, depending on the region) is sometimes confused with baba ghanoush. In many North American restaurants, the two are listed together on menus, although they are really two separate meals that share a common ingredient: roasted eggplant. As a consequence, both have a rich smokey flavor that lingers on the palate after each mouthful. While both mouttabal and baba ghanoush originate in the Levant, the only thing they have in common is roasted eggplant and spices like lemon juice and garlic. Throughout my trips in Jordan, mouttabal – not baba ghanoush – remained a constant.
The final product: roasted eggplant
Mouttabal vs. Baba Ghanoush (Mouttabal vs. Baba Ghanoush)
So what is the difference? Mouttabal (or as it’s called in Lebanon mutabal batinjan) is a dip made from roasted eggplant and sesame paste (called tahini), as well as yoghurt. Olive oil, lemon juice and salt are added for seasoning, resulting in a creamy, flavourful and very filling dip. Baba ghanoush has more ingredients but a lighter feel, combining fresh chopped parsley, tomato, chives and often a mix of green and red pepper. These are folded into the eggplant and it too is seasoned with oil, lemon juice and garlic. In some countries, the peppers and chives are replaced with pomegranate molasses and walnuts; either way it’s delicious.
In Aqaba, Jordan, yoghurt cucumber dip is served with platters of mouttabal.
Moutabal was a staple in my Jordanian dinners, whether as an appetizer before roasted lamb or chicken, or as a tiny Lego brick in a mezze meal, rounding out the flavors with its gentle smokey flavor. It was interesting to contrast the various recipes and textures, some of which had pieces of eggplant and others which were puréed to a smooth, uniform paste.
Jerash, Jordan’s Moutabal
As a child, I despised eggplant because of its stringy texture and odd heavy flavor. But as I grew older, it grew on me even more, and it’s now one of my favorite culinary components. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling eggplant recipes from all over the globe, ranging from hot Sichuan masterpieces packed with numbing peppercorns and topped with chilis to similarly fiery Laotian dips that had the restaurant staff giggling at my tears. In the Middle East, eggplant recipes are seldom hot, but what they lack in heat they make up for in flavor. I savored every mouthful of moutabal, no matter how many times I ate it.
Jordanian Moutabal Recipe
(Photo courtesy of Beit Sitti Cooking School, where I had the opportunity to create my own)
Serves 4-5 people
1 eggplant, medium size
12 CUP TAHINI POWDER
12 cup lemon juice (squeezed)
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 tablespoons yoghurt (salted)
season with salt to taste
- Roast the eggplant for approximately 12 hours on top of the oven, turning it regularly. If you don’t have access to a gas burner or a grill, pierce the eggplant with a fork and roast it in the oven.
- Allow the eggplant to rest for 10-15 minutes before running it under cold water and peeling it with your hands.
- Place the meat in a plastic container after removing the stem. Separate the meat using a knife, then add the juice of 12 lemons, 2 crushed garlic cloves, salt, 12 cup tahini, and 2 tablespoons yoghurt.
- Using a spoon or a mortar and pestle, mash the ingredients well.
- Serve on a platter with a little drizzle of olive oil on top.
Serve with fresh pita or crackers as an appetizer before a summer dinner.
As a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, I visited Jordan for 10 days in early May, eating piles of delicious food, learning about history and hugging baby camels. While my trip and accommodations were sponsored, the opinions expressed herein and photos used in this post are solely my own.
Jordan is a country that boasts numerous intriguing geographic features and mysterious history, but I’ll leave that to the experts. You’ll find endless beaches, lush olive groves, stunning mountain views and ancient ruins – a perfect place to relax and enjoy yourself.. Read more about moutabal vs. baba ganoush and let us know what you think.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- moutabel recipe
- mutabal recipe
- mutabbal recipe lebanese
- mutabal nutrition
- roasted eggplant dip recipe middle eastern