Hey, what’s wrong with eating with your hands? This way, there’s no chance of burning the tongue or roof of your mouth.
For the past three summers, a group of friends and I have been making our way down to the Queen Victoria Night Market every week. What usually occurs is a ritual fast during the day in order to leave room for the loosening up of our belts as we over consume to the point of delirium as the night progresses.
Despite the wide range of international cuisines on offer, our taste buds seem to always point towards the African stalls. With this in mind, we all vowed to resolve our Ethiopian food cravings at The Abyssinian later that week.
Surroundings: As soon as we walked in, our eyes were fixated on the dangling wall ornaments and traditional paintings. I appreciated how much effort was put towards the decor so that patrons can soak up the Ethiopian culture .
Entrées: A friend of mine, nicknamed Eggnog, has an addiction to eggplant. So much so that she had repeated this order more than a few times which led to more than a few welcomed servings. We get the point! Melazany- grilled eggplant cubes came well seasoned and nicely marinated with fresh garlic, olive oil and chives. It was slightly fiery from the chili but fitted perfectly when rolled up with the injera bread which I’d describe as a lighter version of a pancake but had a sourdough aftertaste.
Being Filipino, eating with your hands is part of the norm. In fact, strangely enough, some of our best dishes seem to taste better when eaten without cutlery.
Also great was the Silsy- a puree of onion on ghee (clarified vegetable palm oil) and berbere (80% sarrano chili, 20% mix of 25 various spices) and tomato sauce. Despite this being a meatless dish, with the abundance of flavours, it tasted like beef! We were positively confused.
Mains: After the exited bouts of going back and forth on the menu, we finally cut down to three main dishes. All the mains came at once covered by large straw lids served on once large dish which took up most of the table space. Starting from the left, Goat on Kemmam Sauce was slightly on the hard side, but appreciated the tasty combination of lemon, cardamom, cloves and my favourite cinnamon. When growing up, I’d always had goat served in a spiced soupy stew so this was an interesting way of cooking this dish.
From the specials section, better was the Shiro Bozena presented itself as chopped up cubes of marinated lamb cooked on a very hot pan resulting in some crispy bits. I could taste the garlic and chickpea which was grounded into a sauce. This was my favourite dish of the evening as I happily rolled these babies up with some of the house salad and injera bread like a little kid experimenting (not playing!) with his food.
It was time to try a little tenderness – Dorho Kulwha, not Otis Redding . Although now I have that classic song in my head! This poultry dish is reminiscent to that of a Filipino recipe which my family has been cooking for generations called Chicken Asado. The chicken breast strips were well marinated with Ghee, African spices, tomato puree, turmeric and simmered to perfection. Yea boy!
TIP: Depending on how you like to eat your food, the mains are traditionally all tipped atop the injera bread. Personally, I would have preferred to keep them in their pods in order to keep the dishes separated and to prevent the bread going soggy. You feel me?
Update 6 February- After leaving a comment on this post- I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Rahel, owner and chef of The Abyssinian when I had eaten here a second time to celebrate my birthday. Rahel took to the time to talk about her culture and the tradition behind the food. Funnily, her husband even knew who I was and said ” Adrian, from Food Rehab?” A friend leaked that it was my birthday so to my surprise, Rahel decided to give me a beautiful traditional cooking pot used to cook rice, stew or as a serving dish. It was so unexpected and one of the most kindest gestures I have ever received. If you’re reading this- thank you.
Overall, we were impressed, loved the service and enjoyed our experience. Despite the many attempts to have a food fight, it was a good change to our usual types cuisines when dining out on a Friday night and loved using our hands. Prior to this, we had Asian and Italian 4 weeks in a row! Also check out a review by fellow blogger Iron Chef Shellie
It’s 2010 people…time for a change. Looking forward to our next visit. In fact, we’d also just eaten at Kamel – think middle eastern and African infusion- which was also unbere-vable! Review coming soon yo.
Dessert: tummy says no…
Bring a date here? Perfect.
Night out with friends here? Yes, but book pronto.
Service: Courteous and friendly.
$$$: 80 inc drinks. Cheap eats certified!
Food Rehab Verdict: Sent me to food rehab (book this place now! Wowzer) – Greenlight
So um, what other eateries can you suggest where you are encouraged to use your hands rather than cutlery?