Text & Photos by Dave Stamboulis.
Ethiopian food is certainly one of the more unique cuisines of the world, one that most folks have never even heard of. Yet it is often ranked up there with Thai, Japanese, and Indian as one of the world’s most pleasurable eating delights, and fortunately, Bangkok now has an Ethiopian restaurant to indulge the palate.
Ethiopian cuisine is eaten without cutlery. The plate on which the food is served is made of injera, a fermented bread made from teff, a grain which grows only in the highlands of Ethiopia up over 2-3,000 meters. The teff is fermented like sourdough, and after some days, the flour is rolled out like a large pancake and baked. Injera has a spongy texture and is slightly sour, somewhat making it an acquired taste, but it isn’t strong, and is the perfect medium for soaking up the curries that go on top of it.
The curries, known as wot, vary from chicken to lamb or beef, and are served along with pulses and vegetables on top of the injera. Lentils and split peas are common, along with chard, potatoes, and other vegetables. The curries are made with berbere, a combo of spices that include chilies, garlic, ginger, dried basil, korarima (a wild Ethiopian spice) and several others, giving them a bit of heat, but nowhere near Thai. One unusual dish on any Ethiopian menu is kitfo, which is raw beef that is marinated in spicy chili powder. Many foreign diners shy away from this one, fearing parasites or bacteria, but prepared properly, it is a real treat and one not to be missed.
Just as wonderful as the food in Ethiopia is the coffee. Some of the best beans in the world are grown in the highlands, and a traditional coffee ceremony is not to be missed. First the beans are roasted in an open pan, and the aromatic smoke wafted around for everyone to inhale. Then they are pulverized in a mortar and boiled in a special urn called a jebena before being served, usually with sugar, strong and sweet like a Turkish or Greek coffee.
Here in Bangkok, this wonderful tradition is available at Habesha, a cozy Ethiopian café and bar which is situated on Sukhumvit Soi 3 just up the street from the Nana Mall past the tiny sub soi full of African bars, on the same side of the street as Bumrungrad Hospital. The food at Habesha is about as close to the real deal as you will find, and the helpful staff and owners will go out of their way to explain the various dishes and about Ethiopian food to you.
If you are really in the know, see if you can get them to get you some tej, which is a homemade honey mead wine that is popular in Ethiopia, sweet, flavorful, with a nice kick to it, and a perfect end to a fine meal.
1/26 Sukhumvit Soi 3 Nana
085 902 2241