Most cooking schools aren’t great places for vegetarians and vegans, unless they’re promoting a veg-specific class. So I wasn’t sure what to expect from Petra Kitchen in Petra, Jordan. But when I attended class on a weekday night, I found we were making plenty of veg dishes, and it was easy to opt out of working on non-veg courses.
Class starts at 6:30. After the chef gives a quick rundown of the night’s courses – a full Jordanian dinner composed of salads, soup, appetizers and an entrée – students get to work. The night I was there, about 30 of divided into smaller groups, gathering around six-person tables. Each table was responsible for making at least one dish. At my table, we chopped green peppers for salad and then made little rounds of bread topped with cheese. Staff zoomed between tables, making sure we were chopping cucumbers correctly and dicing vegs down to the right size. Participants mostly came from my group of travel writers, and another American group visiting Jordan for an archeology tour. Most of the archeo folks had an amateur interest, but a couple were professionals with an ongoing dig in Jordan focusing on prehistory.
I was preoccupied with my little tasks of cutting vegs, so it wasn’t until later in the night that I walked around and saw all the dishes the tables had created. Impressive! Eventually, we got to eat all the food. My favorite dishes was the fattoush salad, with greens, cucumbers, tomatoes and toasted pita chips. The main course was a chicken and rice dish. The chef made me a special veg dish of rice and vegetables. But honestly, I ate so much salad, pita and hummus I really didn’t need it. The staff were fairly familiar with vegan and vegetarian diets and were willing to double check ingredients when pressed. Beware the lentil soup, which is made with chicken stock.
Tons of food is left over from the feast, but Petra Kitchen doesn’t waste it. Tour guides, drivers, staff, and local families get first crack at the leftovers. After that, Petra Kitchen staffers with sheep or goat herds bring the salads and bread home for them.
I would recommend Petra Kitchen for any vegetarians or vegans traveling through Jordan that want to meet chefs, learn more about preparing Jordanian food and spend a convivial evening chopping vegetables with other hungry people.