New Year, New Food: Ethiopian

One of the go-to ways my fiance and I like to celebrate special occasions is with dinner out, either at a restaurant we haven’t yet been to or a splurge at one of our favorites. New Year’s Eve was no exception. Occasionally, I pick him up from work near Boston’s South End, and on my drive to his office I always pass a little Ethiopian restaurant called Addis Red Sea. After commenting several times that we should try it, we decided to do it, so we made a reservation for New Year’s Eve. Afterward, we were so glad we did.

Addis

Ethiopian food is particularly unique (or different from anything I’ve ever had, anyway) in that there’s no flatware involved. Instead, a moist, spongy flatbread called injera is used to pinch and scoop up mouthfuls of food. It. Is. Phenomenal. As for the food itself, we ordered an appetizer of sambusas: hot, crusty pastry triangles stuffed with meaty lentils cooked in spices like garlic and nutmeg. (They should just be called “crack pockets” on the menu.) For our main, we ordered platters of chicken (doro wat) and fish (yasa wot) cut up and cooked in a blend of fragrant spices and oils and served with multiple vegetarian side dishes made with lentils (yesmir wot), chick peas (butecha), collard greens (gomen wot), and cracked wheat (kinche). All of the dishes arrived at our table on one large platter, atop two huge pieces of injera. (It was made fabulously soggy and tasty by the sauces and spices that soaked into it. One characteristic I inherited from my dad is that I love sauces, spreads, sides, and dips, and combining flavors, and this was right down my alley, as many of the side dishes were served in stewed or paste forms.) Though they were aromatic and full of flavor, nothing burned our tastebuds off – a nice bonus. If you’ve ever tried Indian food, you might draw some parallels between it and Ethiopian food, but the flavors are still distinct to each type of cuisine.

platters

As for drinks, Addis offers a few Ethiopian wines and African beers. When in Rome, right? Knowing my food would be at least a little spicy, I opted for a glass of Axum Tej, a honey wine with a sweet flavor comparable to some dessert wines I’ve tried. The sweetness was perfectly suited to our spicy food. My date tried a glass of Gouder red wine, an Ethiopian wine with a nice mild flavor. Once we got down to eating with our fingers and scooping up soggy pieces of injera, though, beer felt a little more appropriate, so we ordered up bottles of Tusker, a light and (in my opinion) fruity lager from Kenya, which I’d drunk while on safari there a few years ago. The coldness, fruitiness, and fizziness of the Tusker was another great match for our fabulous meal.

Tusker

If you live in a city or town where there’s an Ethiopian restaurant, I’d highly recommend it, not only for the food, but for the cultural experience, as well.

መልካም አዲስ አመት, Melkam Addis Amet, and Happy New Year!

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