Monday, March 5, 2007

Ethiopian food

Ethiopian food is an acquired taste...or at least requires a very adventerous eater and an open mind!

The first time I had Ethiopian food was years ago at the Blue Nile when I moved to Durham. I was mostly delighted by my perceived weirdness of it. My brother, recalling the famine of the '70s, seems to have an unlimted repetoire of jokes about Ethiopian food. They are not very funny, so don't even start down that path!

At present, the place to get Ethiopian food in the triangle is the Queen of Sheba in Chapel Hill. The woman who runs the Queen of Sheba is a beautiful Ethiopian woman who used to run the Blue Nile with her husband. They divorced. She opened the Queen of Sheba. The Blue Nile went out of business. According to the grapevine, she is the cook and the brains behind the operation.

I have grown to LOVE Ethiopian food. It is served on a giant piece of very thin, soft flat bread called injera. Injera is made of teff flour. According to Wikipedia (my fav web site of all time!) teff is a grain from a type of grass from Africa. It is high in fiber, protein, iron, and calcium. Sometimes I actually CRAVE injera and I'm sure it is when I am feeling a shortage of iron in my diet.

Injera takes the place of the plate and the fork! To eat the food you tear off small pieces of injera and scoop up a small bite between the injera and your fingers. It is messy and I always need 25 napkins.

Do try the Queen of Sheba. It's a bit of of dive, but don't let that stop you. For a starter you should order buticha. It is a potato and garlic puree similar to hummus. You might also try the sambusas which are basically Indian samosas (veggies or meat wrapped in a pastry and deep fried). For the main course you should order the vegetarian or meat sampler which includes some side dish type of things and two main courses. One time I had a fish dish and it was wonderful but I forgot what it is called. Clearly I must go back!

If you are squeamish about sharing food on one big piece of bread or of not having utensils, then don't go.

But in my view there is something delightfully sexy about eating food with your fingers!

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