Ethiopian food may be one of my absolute favorite cuisines. If you have never had Ethiopian food, please kindly close the device you are reading this on and find your closest Ethiopian restaurant (if not my personal favorite, Walia). For newbies, I like to compare the fare to Indian, as it follows a similar, robust-flavored, stew + bread, eat-with-your-hands style (I actually find it to be even better). Last week, I introduced my best friend of 15 years to this delightful cuisine at Walia Restaurant in my dad’s town of South Orange, NJ.
Fresh from my evening commute and slightly delirious from my meager lunch, I admit when we arrived, my eyes were a bit bigger than my stomach, and my culinary selections reflected such. Familiar with the menu, I went ahead and rattled off two appetizers immediately – The Yetimatim Fitfit, a salad comprised of diced tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, onions, Injera (the porous flatbread native to Ethiopian culture), olive oil, and lemon in addition to the Sambusas, which are essentially pastry shells filled with beef, onions, scallions, garlic, jalapenos, and some magical herbs that I can’t put my finger on. Naturally, we both inhaled the appetizers immediately and went on to order the entrees.
Still feeling hungry (likely from our inability to stop and process what we had already eaten), we instinctively ordered two entrées (as we were two people), both of which came with two sides. To begin, we ordered the Doro Tibs, which are sautéed boneless chicken tenderloins stewed in a blend of spices, onions, tomatoes, garlic, and seasoned butter, with Gomen, mixed greens sautéed with onions, garlic and spices, and Misr Watt, split lentil stew simmered in Berbere Sauce. For our second entrée, we ordered Shiro, chickpeas simmered in a mild sauce accompanied by a second order of Misr Watt and Fasolia, string beans and carrots simmered in a mild sauce. DISCLAIMER: As my hand cramps typing out all of those dishes, this was in fact WAY too much food, but again, my eyes were bigger than my stomach ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
For those of you unfamiliar with Ethiopian cuisine, each dish is served on one large round platter atop a piece of Injera, with extra pieces of Injera on the side to scoop up each dish manually (pictured left). I admit, certain dishes don’t appear as well, appetizing, and may resemble some unmentionables, BUT DON’T BE FOOLED. The flavors are OUT OF THIS WORLD. Despite the self-inflicted massive portions, the ingredients are fresh and minimally processed, making for a satisfying and (not unhealthy) meal. The verdict from my bestie? AMAZING. (Even if we did have to fend off an unbearable food coma with an extensive walk afterwards.)