60 Years Since, Jerash’s Oldest Hummus Restaurant Still Serves the Ancient City
JERASH — Having zero additives is the secret behind the “unbeatable” taste of hummus and broad bean dishes, or foul, served at the Smadi Restaurant in the northern Jordanian city of Jerash, the owner said, and customers seconded that.
It is the oldest operating hummus restaurant in the city, 48 kilometres north of Amman, Ahmad Smadi, the founder s son said.
"My father, Abdul Qader Smadi, was taught by an Armenian chef in Nablus, before opening his own place in Jerash, serving his first dish back in 1949,” Ahmad told The Jordan Times.
The building, as old as the restaurant itself, was based on a vaulting system, designed after the architectural style of the era, matching the history of the family’s journey with hummus, foul and falafel.
For more than 60 years, the Smadis have served the people of Jerash and other cities, particularly the north, as Jordanians who frequent the highway connecting Amman to Irbid, used to pass through Jerash every day, Ahmad explained.
Until his passing in 2010, the founder made every effort to share with others in Jerash the secrets of his trade.
The idea of sharing the success and the flavours of fortune was foreign to many who questioned his willingness to teach his own apprentices the very secret recipes of his “trademark hummus”, only to have them leave to pursue their own businesses.
“They also have lives and families to feed, my father would say.”
“Now almost all of the hummus restaurant owners in Jerash follow his recipe,” Ahmad proudly said.
He used only high quality chickpeas and broad beans despite the costs, said Ahmad, who holds a PhD Degree but still involves himself heavily in the family business.
"The broad beans used at the restaurant measure 3 centimetres and are 20 per cent more expensive,” he noted, adding that “it cannot be bought at any other restaurant", he claimed.
Although Smadi does not use preservatives or flavour enhancers, his hummus and qudssiya (a mix hummus and foul) can survive for a longer time than in other restaurants.
"One hour after buying it, the aroma of the dish will still explode your senses, speaking volumes about the quality of the hummus. Some use flavour enhancers and [hummus] whiteners. These additives would have your hummus rot within the hour!" Smadi junior explained.
Notably, the restaurant still operates the traditional working time for hummus restaurants from the old days; from dawn to noon.
By the time dawn prayers are over, hummus and free tea would be ready for worshipers to grab on their way home or eat at the restaurant.
Located in downtown Jerash, it stands opposite to the Hamidi Mosque, built in 1878 by the Circassians, the oldest mosque in Jerash.
Mohammad Ali, a loyal customer, said that it is the only place where he can get his hummus fresh, made on the same day, with no artificial ingredients.
"I would buy from the patron of the trade, rather than from his apprentices,” the customer added.
Hummus is a Levantine Arab dip or spread that is made from chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), dating back almost as early as civilisation itself in the region.
It is traditionally cooked and mashed, then blended with tahini (a paste made from sesame seeds), olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt, the Top Food Facts website explains.
Jerash itself is one of Jordan’s most ancient cities, dating back beyond the Roman Empire.