Tastes from Ethiopia in Salt Lake City at Mahider.
I first fell in love with Ethiopian food in Washington, D.C., which is home to many African restaurants thanks in part to all of the embassies and the international underpinnings of that city. Estimates place the Ethiopian population of D.C. at around a quarter-million. Later—and closer to my (then) home when I was attending graduate school—I would get my fixes of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine at a tiny New York City spot called Massawa, near the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Those were lean times, and the leftovers from a dinner at Massawa could feed me for two or three days.
Its fun to read another human’s story of discovery of Ethiopian food, When living in Portland I happen to cross paths with an Ethiopian food cart. The spicy… mushy food was off putting at first, but keeping an open mind I really grew to love the spongy bread (injera) and complex tastes this nameless trailer provided to me.
There are a couple of things you can be certain of in an Ethiopian restaurant: There will be injera, and you will be encouraged to eat with your hands (although most African eateries reluctantly offer up forks and knives, if asked). As with breads like naan in India or Pakistan, or tortillas in Mexico, injera is a spongy type of bread used as an edible tool to scoop foods, and it anchors virtually every Ethiopian meal. Injera is made from teff, which is a species of lovegrass native to the northern Ethiopian Highlands, ground into a flour somewhat similar to buckwheat flour. Not only does injera serve to get food from the plate to your mouth, it pretty much is the plate: Most main courses are served directly atop a massive round of injera.