Monday, April 23, 2007

Experiencing the Ethiopian Food & A Restaurant Review !

Restaurant hopping and trying out new cuisines have been two enticing activities for me and CJJ right from day one and our stay here in US opened up a whole new spectrum for us when it came to various exotic and ethnic cuisines. CJJ has an Ethiopian colleague at work and when he mentioned that Ethiopian food is quite similar to our Indian food and recommended a restaurant in our town, we decided to give it a try and were off to this place, Abyssinia, Indianapolis, last month and it was quite an exotic experience.

Located in a strip mall, Abyssinia, IN is a small place that does not boast of a very sophisticated and stylish ambiance but depicts the Ethiopian culture and traditions and gives a peek into the traditional arts and crafts. Our hostess, an Ethiopian woman clad in traditional wear, greeted us warmly and gave us the option to choose either a table or a massob. The child in me did pop up exactly at that moment and even before CJJ could open his mouth and express any hesitance, I grabbed a place around Massob, an Ethiopian communal serving basket made of woven grass and acts as a low table, surrounded by some stools and chairs for the diners. A picture of the Massob below:

Our hostess was a quite friendly and warm woman who was willing to answer all our doubts and also talk a bit about her culture and traditions. There was a coffee corner near our massob and she was quite excited to brief us about the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony; coffee drinking is an integral part of their social and cultural tradition practiced with lots of elaborate ceremonies and she explained how the woman of the neighborhood get-together and spread the grass on the floor to set the stage for the ceremony.....then roast the coffee beans on a charcoal burner and later brew them in a coffee pot, locally named Jebena and coffee is accompanied by some snacks like peanuts or popcorn. The coffee corner in the restaurant reflected all the elements of this tradition with a small low table, kept on a mat, woven with grass, with the charcoal burner on the side and Jebena, the coffee pot and the china clay cups and a plate of popcorn placed on the table! A picture of the coffee corner below: -

We felt the menu had more options for non-vegetarians, though they had a section for vegetarian dishes with lentils, leafy vegetables, potatoes etc. The carnivores that we are did not really bother to order much from the vegetarian section. We started with an appetizer, Yesiga Sambusa, a pastry stuffed with spiced ground beef ($2). It was nothing but our own Indian Meat Samosa but let me state here, it was the best Sambusa or I should say the best beef Samosa I have ever had in my life ! Once we finished the Sambusa, I started having some doubts on the similarities between the Ethiopian food and Indian food, as I had already read somewhere that Ethiopian food is eaten with hands; all my doubts turned positive once the main dishes arrived. Our orders, Yedoro Wett, ($8.99) chicken marinated in lemon and sautéed in herbed butter, stewed in berbere sauce (an Ethiopian spice mixture) with onion, garlic and ginger root, served with hardboiled eggs and some Ethiopian yogurt; Sega Wett, ($9.95) tender beef pieces cooked in berbere sauce and seasoned with spices and herbs; Yebeg Alecha, ($9.99) a lamb dish stewed in herbed butter with onions, garlic and ginger roots; Yemisir Wett, ($5.50) red split lentils cooked in berbere sauce and fine herbs and one more yellow lentil dish, were served on a large plate lined with Enjera bread, a crepe like sour and spongy flatbread and the entire platter was placed on the Massob. Enjera (Also written as Injera) to Ethiopians is what rice is to Asians; it’s quite bland on its own, made with teff, a tiny, round grain that flourishes in the highlands of Ethiopia. Personally I felt it’s something very similar to the Palappam we get in Kerala and though the ingredients are different, both require fermentation and both have airy and bubbly texture. Our hostess explained how Enjera is fermented and she also pointed out that though only teff flour is used in Ethiopia for making this bread, here in US they have modified their recipes and add wheat flour too as teff is a bit costly here. Enjera is not only an ‘edible table-cloth’ but also a utensil to scoop up the dishes and pop it on your mouth. The spiciest in our plate was the chicken dish, Yedoro Wett and it was tangy and sour too. Our personal favourite, Sega Wett, reminded us of the beef preparation in Kerala and Yebeg Alecha resembled the mutton stew :) More rolls of Enjera were served along with the platter. We did not find much choice at the dessert section though they had some Ethiopian tea and beer in the beverages. Pricing was reasonable too.

For westerners, tearing a piece of enjera, dipping and scooping up the dish and eating the meal with fingers, may seem a bit strange, but what was strange to me was the way it was served and eaten; the Ethiopian culture encourages communal eating and hence, everyone dips into the same platter and share the food !! Yes, the snob in us might wonder about all the hygienic aspects but according to the Ethiopian culture, it’s a belief that those who share and eat the food from the same plate, do not cheat each other and hence it’s considered a way of promoting bond of friendship and loyalty. Though sitting on high chair and bending onto the massob to scoop up the food was a bit uncomfortable for us, it was definitely a truly and unforgettable experience. A picture of our platter below. Click on the picture for an enlarged view.

To sneak a quick look into the Ethiopian arts and crafts that were displayed at Abyssinia, IN, please click on the picture to start the slide show.

After enjoying the exotic food as well as tasting a rich cultural experience too, on our way back home, CJJ popped up the interesting and the expected question, "So ....what do you think....shouldn’t we travel to Ethiopia once....:) ? " Yes, that was one more addition to the long list of the places we want to visit :)


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  1. Niceeeeeeee!Is that food tastes like Indian food??Your explanation make me a feeling to find out one Ethiopian resturant .I never noticed such resturants here..Thanks dear for shating this.
    Next u try to replicate these Ethiopian recipes and blog here.

  2. You know what mishmash, Injera is the mother of palappam. Making of Injera is very similar to palappam. Ethiopia and Yemen are close and Jews from there visited Kerala and taught us how to make palappam......Will blog soon about it. Was planning to. Great post. Love Love posts like these.

  3. Nice write up .Well we also have a ethiopian resturant here also.will surely give a try,washesitating initially .Definately now gonna give a shot.Thanks for the write up

  4. Shn, I love Ethiopian food, Doro Wett and Injera and that boiled egg on top... yummy... the best option is to go as a big group and eat that Injera soaked with all the different, I am getting serious cravings now... its been a while since we've been to an ethiopian restaurant! Great review, enjoyed reading it as usual!

  5. I can't comment as I haven't tried their food, but my jaw locked (with drool) when I was reading through your review! I have to nag my husband to look for ethiopian restaurant!

  6. OMG!!! How beautiful!! I love the decor and the food there looks gorgeous too.It's worth visiting at least once.Thanks for posting this:)

  7. Great! That looks like an Ethiopian sadya!! Really tempting. Never tasted Ethiopian food even though there is one Ethiopian restaurant somewhere around. :) Sounds like it's worth paying a visit...

  8. i didn't see any ethiopian restaurants here, nice write up!!
    now i all curious to know how it tasted like???
    After i started food blogging, i came to know of many cuisines and this one is quite intriguing!!

  9. Shn, Never tasted Ethiopian cuisine. you have nicely described your visit. Planning to recreate some of what you ate at home?

  10. I love Ethiopian Food too. We have a restaurant called Makeda and the food is totally yumm. The meat and the dal are just like Indian and in this reastaurant they serve a platter with all sorts which you have to share. If you see the platter next time order that, it is good for 2 and has a good sampling of everything

    I love Injera, reminds me of Appam I had in B'lore.

  11. Great review shn. I love ethiopian food too esp Injeera. There is also an Okra dish which is great, I forget the name. We went to a Sudanese dinner a few days ago and their food was also similar to ethiopian food!

  12. love ethiopian food. it was great to read this. we once asked them heat up the injere (it's always served cold), and they looked as us as if we were crazy.

  13. mishy, never tried ethiopian but tried moroccan and i didn't like it. may be because then i was pregnant:):). i would like to know more about injera and palappam connection:).

    it is always nice to read your write ups. gets the feeling that one is actually there.

  14. Nice work, restaurant reviewer. Love the details. I recently read a review in the NY Times about Ethiopian food at an Ethiopian there in NY and they had great things to say about the food too.

  15. I love Ethopian food. and that Injera soaked in different curry..its just awesome..

    Nice review Shn


  16. I've had Ethiopian food only once while visiting Washington, DC. It was delicious and had so many vegetarian options. You've inspired me to look up some Ethiopian recipes.:)

  17. wow... what a beautiful decor and colour array of dishes. madam, u r a foodie, wonderful cook, great presenter, an artsit and now super reviewer:) any more vatars of urs to come? i wont be surprised;)
    mmm...did u say not much vegetarian options? will look around for ethiopian restaurant. planning to visit persian restaurant this weekend:) and one portugal resturant is gonna open pretty soon in our area:) so much to try and i have started exercising already;) he he he...

  18. waw Shn, such a lovely restaurant! nice to learn new things about Ehtiopian food and their culture. that serving basket looks so good.nice write up.

  19. Nice pictures, post and review. That restaurant must serve you something special for that great review :) Sambusa is samosa here also. The massob reminded me of global village where they display such furniture at the African stalls. Eating from the same platter is common among the local population here also.

  20. I remember tasting Ethiopian food and thinking how close it is to Indian food. Especially the lentil preperations. I liked the non-veg part of the Ethiopian food better. Great review!!

  21. Ethiopian food, now, that's what I call exotic! I find that African cuisine just doesn't get enough exposure or recognition, which is a pity. I'm sure there is much more to discover than these lovely dishes! :)

  22. sounds pretty interesting and delicious! ethiopian is one of the foods i have not yet tried, but i know exactly where they have several in seattle! i find it interesting how the different cultures all have things in common, like injera similar to palappam, and sounds similar to tortillas! we use tortillas to scoop up food and eat like that too. i always thought that even though the foods are different, they bring people together more than anything! great restaurant review, shn!

  23. mm..quite interesting..never ventured into many cusines..except italian..french and thai..this one looks exotic..

  24. i just got back from a tour and there u r with a totaly diffrent cusine. we have an ethiopian resturant here but never had a chance to go since nirmal refuses to try. girl, u realy made me drool and i 'll sure give it a try and let u know.

    hey.. did u see inji's comment in my blog!?

  25. gr8 review shaheen. After readin ure post I googled for ethiopian restaurants in my vicinity and went there for dinner last nite. the food was gr8 and my husband who is a vegetarian had a lot of options too. Thanks for the writeup.

  26. I too love to try out all the different cuisines. I've never heard anything abt Ethiopian food though. I'll have to search for an Ethiopian restaurant now, after reading your wonderful post. Thanks for sharing your experience.


  27. Wow......Great slide show with traditional ware and all this things.
    Yes, I like to travel to Ethiopia once .........after see your post.
    Nice post.

  28. Sorry abt the confusion. Its definitely gonna be SHN from now on.

  29. I've never tried this cuisine...looks like you had a great time...

  30. OHO Ethiopian sadya after Kerala leaf lunch...??
    Lovely varieties..I meant,your posts,kerala sadya as well as ethiopian sadya..
    Wonderful to note that our good old palappam has ancestors in ethiopia:)

  31. What a great post, I had heard of the Injera bread before....but not too much about the various did a great job of explaining, and the pictures speak for themselves....


  32. Shn, I wanted to email you directly but cannot find an email address on your site so the next best thing is for me to leave the comment here.

    I just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you for being so supportive. It is greatly appreciated.

  33. I have the only Ethiopian restaurant in London a stone's throw from my home. But I didn't take to the food - too oily and rich. This restaurant seemed to cook everything with bottles and bottles of ghee. was your restaurant the same?

  34. I haven't found Ethiopian resturant here. Have to find out one..It looks like our sadya..Thanks for sharing..

  35. i remember going to an ethiopian place a long time ago and u are right, the food is similar to ours but bland.
    we had a spinach dish too, did u have that?and the bread reminded me of dosa. we had been served cold food and thot that was strange.
    so are u going to go back there?

  36. Kitchenfairy, If you can find one in your area, do give it a try. hmm...want to try one of the Ethiopian preparation in my kitchen but I am yet to find certain ingredients particularly used in this cuisine.So let me see :)

    Inji Pennu, ohh really?? that explanation makes more sense...I would love to read your post on this relating both enjera and Palappam. Hope you blog about it soon. Thanks a lot for your comment :)

    Saumya Bhat, yes, yes, give it a shot and let me know if you liked their cuisine :)

    Sig, hey, I have read the same view earlier somewhere, that it's better to go as a large group but I keep wondering how messy that can be :)))

    Gattina,Since you like Indian food, I guess you will find this one interesting too. Am sure there must be lots in the NJ/NY area!

    Asha, yes, definitely worth giving a try :)

    RP,dhaa...pinnem thamasha :)Yes, you should try this once...atleast to have an idea how it tastes like :)

    Paddukoti, Thanks....hoe you find one in your radar :)

    Hema, hahah...I want to try at home but some ingredients like Berbere sauce and herbed butter, I am yet to find in our local stores here. If I can catch hold of those ingredient, perhaps I might give it a try :)

    Sandeepa, oh...I really wish this place had a platter like this but what they have is Abyssinia combo which has just 4 varieties ! WOW, now u re telling me u have tasted appam too after your travels to Kerala :)

    Mandira, ohh..I have never tasted Sudanese.....glad to know that you enjoyed reading this post :)

    Bee,hahaha...we didn't do that but I felt the same thing as enjera was cold but the other dishes were warm :)

    Reena,hehehe...thats definitely hormone problems :)) blame it on them :) Inji Pennu had mentioned that she is planning to blog about the relation between enjera and appam...hope we get to read that one soon.

    Cynthia, yes dear, most of the people who have tasted this cuisine are of the same opinion. Hope you try it once :)

    Sushma, hmm....definitely its tasty :) Thanks :)

    Susan,hey,thats great, I hope I get to see that post soon :)

    Sia, I was just waking up from my sleep when CJJ read out your comment for me and I could not control my laugh...was really laughing out :)) more avatars :))So how was the Persian food ? any luck with reducing the waist line ?;)

    Sharmi, too loved that basket...i wanted to buy one if available anywhere here ;)

    Jyothsna, hey I didn't know that Arabs also eat from the same platter....!! Is it only for the Meza or for the main dish too ??

    Gini, me too like the non veg dishes better :)

    Shilpa, Probably blogging about their food is one way of attracting attention to their culture and cuisine may blog about it sometime :)

    Cinderelly, I would like put tortilla,pita bread and Indian breads like chappathi and nan in the same category ....its true when it comes to scooping the food but enjera and palappam required overnight fermentation and thats where I find the similarity. Hope you try this cuisine soon :)

    Mathew, ohh...I have not tried any authentic French cuisine....must be quite similar to Italian right ?

    Maneka, hey, any luck with convincing Nirmal..? Did you use the tips I gave you? ;)

    Deepz, Hope I am Shn for you from now onwards :) I was really really happy to read your comment :)

    RG, Hope you find one soon :)

    Kajal, Thanks :)

    Sunita, yes, we enjoyed the food...hope you get to try once :)

    Bharathy,Thanks for the compliments....In sadya, you get the entire leaf for yourself , here you need to share the food :D

    Trupti, Thanks a lot...happy to know that you enjoyed the post :l)

    Cynthia, All the good works need to be appreciated dear :)

    Mallika, no the food here was not greasy as you was quite normal...i know that they use herbed butter, perhaps they are using it more in your restaurant!

    Seena, yes..looks like Sadya, but you need to share the food with your co-diners :)

    Mallugirl, nope, we did not try the spinach one...our enjera was cold but the other dishes were warm...and yes I want to go there again to try more varieties....and Sambusa is something that tempts me to go there again :)

    Thank You all

  37. Wonderful review Shn! I have seen injera bread for sale at an Indian store in Cambridge. Always wanted to try it! Thanks for sharing your experience :)

  38. Love Appam, told you wish had a Mallu family nearby :)

  39. Hi, I grew up in Ethiopia, and really loved their food, esp. doro wat and kai wat. They also have a fish dish called lebleb that was yummy. Spent 9 years there and we always had injera on the weekends. Ur post really took me back to the old days. For readers of ur blog who are in the UAE, u can get pretty authentic Ethiopian food in restaurants on Somali Road opposite the Hyatt Regency in Deira.

  40. Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!

    Cold Food Displys


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