Friday, December 4, 2009

Adventures in Ethiopian cuisine

In cooking, there's nothing I hate more* than when a recipe goes wrong. But that's just what happened with the Ethiopian meal that I had planned to post about last Sunday.

The eggplant salad I made didn't taste quite right, and adorable fish-shaped chickpea fritters that I hoped to make never materialized due to my inexperience in working with chickpea flour-based dough.

So, I resolved to visit an Ethiopian restaurant properly familiarize myself with the country's food and culture. I got a lot of reaction when I told people I was going to try authentic Ethiopian cuisine. Comments ranged from "It is the best food you will ever eat" to "they don't have a strong food culture...."

We went to Blue Nile, where I had a vegetarian combination platter and Shawn had lamb tips sauteed in butter. Both dishes were served with injera (a kind of crepe) — an integral part of the Ethiopian meal and your utensil. I had hoped to experience the coffee† ceremony that I had heard about, but you typically need a group of 5 for a restaurant to perform it, and they need at least a day's notice, so we were out of luck.
Some things we tried were good — Shawn loved his lamb and some of the vegetable "wots" (stews) were very good. Other things, like Tej, Ethiopian honey wine fermented with hops, were not my cup of tea. (In fact, it made my list of "Things I'll never drink again."‡)

I hope you enjoyed this little primer on Ethiopian food. You can read about WFP initiatives in Ethiopian here. As one of the world's least developed countries, Ethiopia has been dealing with severe food crises for decades.  It was the country that first drew the world's attention to the cause of world hunger in the 80s, and inspired this holiday classic:



*With the possible exception of Gordon Ramsay.
†Bonus fact: Coffee originated in Ethiopia.
‡Right next to Hooch.

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