The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Ethiopian @ Ghenet, New York

I remember a few years ago reading about Ethiopian cuisine. I was intrigued by the fact that food is served on the tablecloth, and the tablecloth is then eaten! Of course, the 'tablecloth' is not actually cloth, but injera, which is an unleavened bread from Ethiopia. Needless to say, after reading about Ethiopian food, I was yearning to try some. Alas, although the Perth restaurant scene is quite diverse due to its multicultural population, African food is unfortunately not very popular. Who would've thought that I would one day actually get a taste of Ethiopia without stepping inside Ethiopia?

(When I mentioned to Rob about trying Ethiopian food, he made a funny comment that it'd be strange eating food from a country that he related with famines. Famine or not, Ethiopian food is yummy!)

There are a few notable Ethiopian restaurants in NYC, and Ghenet is one of them. We went in at 3pm on a Saturday to avoid any lunch crowds, and sure enough, the place was quiet. Our waiter was perhaps affected by the mid-afternoon slump because service was only so-so, but there's not much to complain here because he did his job satisfactorily. We asked for recommendations, and he suggested trying one of the combinations, where each of us could choose 1 meat dish and 2 vegetarian dishes (i.e. altogether 2 meats and 4 vegs). Great for trying a variety of dishes, all for $31.50 (excl tax) for the both of us.

For meat, we chose Doro Wett (spicy chicken) and Siga Wett (spicy beef), both of which came with a side serving of split peas. For vegetables, we had Gomen Wett (spicy collard greens), Atkelt Wett (cabbage, potato and carrot with caramelised onion sauce), Misir Wett (spicy lentils) and Shiro Wett (spicy beans). As you can tell, Ethiopian food features a lot of spices, but not spicy in the chilli sense. As expected, the food came out served on top of a big piece of injera (on a huge plate), with additional injera on the side to scoop up the sauces into your mouth.

The sauces for both the chicken and beef were different, despite having the same "wett" in their names, with the chicken dish having more of a milky, buttery taste. Both of the meat dishes were rich, and it didn't take long before we'd had enough of either. On the other hand, the vegetarian dishes were done very well, particularly the spicy beans. We both agreed that the vegetarian dishes were better than the meat dishes.

Our plate (unfortunately not very photogenic); and a closer look at injera, which is a spongy sourdough pancake-like bread that is very floopy:

This was a good experience - there's something beautiful yet fundamental about eating with your fingers. I used to eat with my hands when I was younger, because it was the traditional way my mum would usually eat her food (strangely I haven't observed her doing that much since migrating out of Malaysia). The Indians and Malays also traditionally eat with their fingers.

Like I said before, Ethiopian food is good, famine or not. I'm glad I finally had the opportunity to try this cuisine.

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