March 24th 2015
By Luis Yanes
For a long while now (actually 2 years and about 4 months, I’ve been counting), I’ve been wanting to try a new combination of flavors that I have yet to experience and enjoy. Now, new or out of the ordinary for me may not be out of the ordinary for you, however, I think we can both agree that not many people would think of Ethiopian food as their first choice in unusual cuisine. I did have an expectation of the traditional Ethiopian meal though; we eat with our hand, and there’s some sort of pancake item that you use to pick up your other edibles around the dish with.
When the dishes came out, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my Central American process of eating a meal was not very far off from that of my fellow Ethiopians. Ethiopian meals are eaten with injera (sourdough flatbread made from fermented teff flour) and we eat our meals with tortillas (usually made just from corn flour) and are accompanied by a grain/rice and savory or spicy meats (chicken or beef). Its like we are part of the same food culture!
(Ok, maybe not EXACTLY. But you get the idea.)
While our entrée for 3 arrived, we got to taste a traditional snack, the Meat Sambusa. These pastry shells filled with spiced beef were fried to crispy and golden brown goodness which as we all know, will seal in the juices of the beef in. The beef was tender and spiced with great aromatic spices (feel that taste of the cardamom man!).
When our entrée arrived, it was quite possibly served on the biggest plate that I have ever seen! Sitting on top of the injera were our 3 choices of vegetables which we picked and 2 choices of meats. Here’s the list of items that we had chosen prior:
Awash Chicken- chicken cubes marinated in garlic, ginger, and spices.
Tibs Wat- Beef strips cooked in specialty seasoned berbere sauce.
Gomen (collard greens cooked with onions, garlic, and green peppers.
Yemissir Kik Wat- Split red lentils cooked in berbere sauce
Yater Kik Alicha- Yellow split peas cooked and seasoned with onions, peppers and herbs.
I started off by trying the vegetables first one by one, cause ya know, that just make sense in my head. I had each item along with the injera, which had a pretty interesting flavor, sticking true to its definition of a sourdough flatbread. The texture was very soft and was surprisingly flexible, yet strong. The texture of the injera allowed us to 'pinch' the food up with our fingers without ripping the injera and/or dropping any of the food while it made its way to our mouth (or in Sarah's case, straight to the front of her shirt).
First, is the Gomen (collard greens, which in the above picture is the green vegetable), followed by the Yemissir Kik Wat (red split peas) and lastly the Yater Kik Alicha (yellow split peas). The vegetables were quite flavorful, especially the Yemissir Kik Wat- which were seasoned with berbere (combination of spices such as korarima, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella, and fenugreek- all of which I have actually never cooked with before, so this was a flavor treat!)
In the center, laid the tender strips of chicken breast seasoned with spices and sauteed with tomatoes, peppers, onions. I was so eager to try the other items on our dish that I actually only got to eat a couple of the strips of the chicken (they were one of the tables favorite item!). The beef was cooked slowly with berbere sauce and this is what gave it such great tenderness and unique Ethiopian flavors. My favorite was taking some of the sourdough flatbread and scooping up some beef and red lentils, but there were unlimited combinations that could have been had with this huge dish! Well, actually 20 permutations to be exact (big shout out to my middle school CT education for that one.)
If you want to experience something new, then I would advise you to go check out Awash and let us know how it went! They are located on 338 E 6th St (between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave) and if you have any questions, feel free to call them up at 1-212-982-9589.