Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ethiopian food in Ethiopia!

It's the real deal. The real injera, the real shiro and gomen, the real kitfo. Not that we haven't had some damn fine Ethiopian food in New York - there's a place a few blocks away where homesick Ethiopians ply their trade that Erin was feasting at with great regularity before we left. But this stuff was good. I mean the injera had a tang to it that I have not experienced here and the shiro in a couple of places had a spice blend that is impossible to both forget and replicate. Not to mention the fact that kitfo snuck up on us on the first day... our driver orders some food for us after a brief discussion and turns out he didn't even know that kitfo would be lurking... we got a hodge-podge and after my first bite after not looking at the plate, I had a novel thought - 'that's raw beef I taste.' Ahhh kitfo. Never again.

It's actually quite hard in some ways to reconcile the generous eating habits of many urban Ethiopians these days with the 1980s images that are stuck in my head of starving Ethiopian children... though it only took about 30 minutes in the hospital to realize that the specter of yesteryear was actually in front of me today.

Sticking to the food... other than the Ethiopian food that we had in abundance, I had some solid coffee place after place. Here's a photo of the meal with the hidden kitfo (we look like hell because we had just flown from NYC-Cairo, spent the day there, Cairo-Addis, then 6hr drive to this place all with 2-3hrs sleep and I was post-call).

 Back to the coffee, Ethiopia is where coffee is thought to have originated. Now back here in the states, the respect they pay to coffee in ceremony validates Ethiopia's claim to its origin. You can't grab a coffee to go. You have to sit, they roast the beans in front of you and then go through this whole serving routine with incense and the like. And it's not just a show - literally every person who just orders coffee gets it this way - the leaves are some sort of welcoming/good luck thing (see photos below). The top one is cheap street style but still with the incense and some sort of green leafy thing that I never got a full explanation for. The bottom is the more grandiose display but still pretty common.
 We had some great Indian, some decent Italian (the only occupiers ever of Ethiopia) and some good more European/American style food too. And the boy had loads of admirers. Below is the most glamorous of the group but nearly every waiter/waitress held him at some point.