Ethiopian For The Masses

Everyone who reads this blog regularly knows that Ethiopian is my favorite cuisine. I first tried it in New Jersey when we were living ther...

Everyone who reads this blog regularly knows that Ethiopian is my favorite cuisine. I first tried it in New Jersey when we were living there. We tried it at three or four different places in Jersey, then three places in DC, places in Connecticut, and many in New York City. Though there are a few that were delicious, Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey remains the undisputed champion. Being inspired to make some at home, I now know how very painstaking and timely the process is, and how each component of each dish is very complex. That's why it's so good! I recently got my copy of Teff Love by Kittee Berns and plan to stock up on staple spices of the cuisine as soon as my tax money comes back! Reading that book makes me so hungry. I can't wait to cook from it!

As I've discussed in previous posts, my fiancé Alex and I have been celebrating all of our special occasions with Ethiopian food for years, be it birthdays, anniversaries, New Years Eve, new jobs, big accomplishments, Valentines day, and even the Ethiopian New Year! We love it so much! I've even heard Alex describing it to others by saying, "It puts every other cuisine to shame." Where we grew up there aren't really any Ethiopian restaurants, so none of our friends or family had ever tried it. In the past few years, we took my parents there a few times, my best friend (and now Maid of Honor), my sister (to be) and some new friends to Mesob, and every single one of them loved it! Even my dad, who is a pretty traditional American Dad eater, really liked it. So that's saying something.
Wouldn't it make sense to serve this food at my wedding? I mean, it's the best. And it's our favorite.
I think we'd be doing our guests a disservice if we didn't serve them Ethiopian at our wedding!
I'd like to give this food a proper introduction to all who aren't familiar with it. If you are familiar, you can just look at the pretty pictures, because this will all be old news to you.

When we go out for Ethiopian, we like to get at least one appetizer. Lately, we are all about sambusas, a spicy lentil-stuffed pastry triangle. But we've been known to get Ingudai Tibbs (spicy mushrooms), Kategna (injera bread with spiced oil), and Azifa (spiced lentil salad), too. The food is served with Injera, a sourdough flatbread, and is used as your utensil. Eating with your hands is somehow incredibly gratifying! The injera compliments each bite. You just tear off a piece, and grab a bit of food, but be sure to grab with your right hand if you are dining with true Ethiopian food enthusiasts.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church observes lent and fasts during these months. For them, fasting really just means eating vegan. They fast for a number of other holidays throughout the year too, and totals almost six full months a year of fasted days. This works out great for us, because it means the vegetarian options are almost always vegan. We always order the vegetarian sampler or combination plate. It is usually around the same price as just picking one dish, and really, you are going to want to taste all of the dishes. I could never pick just one! Not even Misir Wat! They could never make me choose! The dishes are brought out on a very large platter with a very large injera on top of it. The stews are then poured in little piles on top of the injera. You usually share one big plate with your fellow diners. You could definitely ask for separate plates, but I think sharing is part of the fun! It makes you interact with your dinner partners more and have more fun! There is also a custom where you tear off a piece of injera and grab a bite for your friend or family member that is dining with you, and pop it into their mouth for them! It's called "gorsha" and gorshas always taste better <3. 

Some of our favorite dishes are pictured below, starting clockwise at the top: Tikil Gomen (cabbage and potatoes), Butecha (fluffy spiced chickpeas/my personal fave), Misir Wat (spicy lentils), Atkilt Alicha (green beans and carrots), Dinich Wat (spicy potatoes), and Shiro (spicy ground chickpea dip) in the center. These are staples at most Ethiopian restaurants, but they are done best by Mesob!

Alongside you are served extra injera to grab every last bit of food from the platter! Towards the end, I like to grab the injera off the plate that the food was placed on. The flavors of the stews had seeped into it and made it the best injera ever!

I love ending the meal with Bunna, Ethiopian coffee. It's amazing coffee made using a special process. The beans are roasted on the stovetop, then passed around for everyone to smell the freshly roasted beans, then ground with a mortar and pestle. The grounds are then mixed with spices and placed inside a jebena, a clay coffee pot with a strainer. It is the most fragant, fresh, delicious coffee I have ever tasted and a perfect way to end an Ethiopian meal. At Mesob, they offer vegan chocolates infused with Ethiopian spices, and how exactly could you pass those up? 

I hope that helps any skeptics understand not only how important Ethiopian cuisine is to us, but also how delicious and exciting it is! It will make our wedding dinner unique, but also very special and personal! I'm sure I won't need to convince anyone after they have tried it. Maybe after having it they will be making trips to Jersey just for the food, like we often do! We're so excited to share it with everyone we love.

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  1. You're going to need to buy berbere in bulk and then get going with Teff Love. Once you have the staple spices, it's really the most economical food to cook! Also a warning: you won't like restaurant Ethiopian once you've made Kittee's recipes.

    1. I definitely have to stock up on spices. I can't wait to cook from that book! I get so hungry flipping through.

  2. What a wonderful introduction to Ethiopian food! It's my favorite cuisine too, and I'm so excited and envious that it's going to be what you serve at your wedding. My husband and I discovered the joys of Ethiopian food after we were already married. We always say that if we were getting married now, that would definitely be what we would serve.

    1. Aw thanks for the vote of confidence in our choice! We are hoping everyone comes with an open mind, and the food will take care of the rest! It just seems too appropriate to not have it at such a big celebration.

  3. Mesob Mesob Mesob! Someday I'll get there. I'm glad to be in the good company of others who also appreciate the yum that is Ethiopian food.

    1. Kittee: me, Barbara & Kathie love Mesob too! But not as much as Teff Love :-)

    2. Yes definitely! Next time you're in or around NYC we will have to go. I can't wait to break into Teff Love!