Monday, 9 July 2012

Hakuna matata

Some people would think that eating with your hands is unethical, but you have to embrace different cultures and their way of eating. Not everyone eats with a knife and fork, and I got my chance to embrace authentic Ethiopian and eat with my hands.

Just because we are eating with our hands, it doesn't mean there is less decorum. Eating with the left shows disrespect, as it is believed that food is a gift from god and as our left is used for dirty duties in some cultures it is respect to only eat with your right.

The Abyssinian has a desert warmth to it with it's terracotta orange walls and African wall hangings to set your evening scene, along with their bar designed at a hut to make it feel like a village.

Our starter was the assorted entrees where we got to experience the selection of all on offer. A combination of their Melanzany - flavoursome grilled eggplant with garlic and chilli, Silsy - a combination of sautéed onion with a spicy berbere and tomato sauce and Zucchini - sautéed with berbere spice, tomato and finished with chilli seeds. Bought out on a traditional over sized plate with a woven targine lid which is removed to recover the glorious smells and all accompanied with traditional injera bread.

Injera bread is something that is a little hard to explain, and something even harder to make it sound enticing. For me this bread looks something like tripe (lining of a beef stomach), but its certainly not this. It has a texture of a wet sponge and is almost a wet formented bread I guess you could say. I know this hasn't made you leap out of your seats to go and try this unique bread, but as I said I can't explain it to make enticing. So what is it then? Well glad you asked....Injera is a yeast risen flat bread of which is created from teff flour. Teff is one of the worlds tiniest grains in the world (150 teff grains = 1 single kernel of wheat). The name originating from the word teffa translating to lost, it is amazing what it can create. The best part is that it's gluten free and is supposed to benefit people with diabetes as it assists in controlling blood sugar.

With our entree dishes poured over the injera it is almost deceptive to how filling this will become. The injera soaks up the sauce and trying to eat with just your right hand can also make it challenging but also fun and enjoyable. By the end of your entree you should almost be an expert from practicing. The ideal way to eat the injera is to try and tear a bit off almost the size of your palm, then scoop up the dishes inside the injera roll it up and enjoy. If your with a loved one embrace further traditions and feed them first. This is called Gursha and it is an act of kindness and respect for them.

The entrees burst amazing spicy flavours and the berbere shone through, with it's explosion of authentic spices and Serrano chillis (which are hotter than the jalapeño pepper). They were all delicious and a great start to the evening, but as eggplant lovers we highly suggest to experience the Melanzany. The entrees alone had filled us which was surprising how the mix of the dishes along with the injera had done so, so quickly. We were not so certain that we would be able to get through our mains.

A selection of 3 main dishes were selected to share, which were automatically accompanied with injera when doing this, so no need to order extra. Trust me you would explode if you did, but of course if your only ordering one or two dishes you'd need to do so.

Starting with the Dorho zignini which is an authentic east African chicken casserole of slow cooked chicken pieces (on the bone) in spicy berbere sauce and served with a whole boiled egg. Very intense in spices and can cause some good old chilli sweats, but it is mighty tasty. A little difficult to roll up in the injera bread due to the chicken being on the bone, but if you don't mind getting your hands into the dish a lot more then it won't be a problem.

The Dorho kulwha, chicken strips with ghee (clarified vegetable palm oil) with African spices topped with a tomato purée and simmered in a light tumaric. A much milder dish and the chicken is succulent and juicy. I enjoyed this dish more that the first, it was a little lighter as the sauce was not as heavy and easier to eat.

Our third and final dish, although we were up to dollies wax already with scrumptious flavoursome dishes was the Asa kulwha. Lovely Nile perch fillet with sautéed onion, spiced ghee and berbere fresh tomatoes and finished with green chilli. The fish was treated so delicately in is dish and was jam packed with perfect flavours and my favourite of the night. The sweetness of the Nile perch added another dimension into the spices and so delicious.

The best part of this was that everything was overloaded with the main ingredient, such as chicken, Nile perch or just eggplant. You weren't paying for the sauce it was in like you do at other places where you wonder where your protein actually is while you serch for it. You don't need to over load yourselves with hundreds of dishes to fill you up and you are certainly not left hungry even though your dishes may seem small, don't over think with the sizes as they are truly filling.

Try finishing your night with the Ethiopian sidamo coffee. It has a peculiar aroma of spice, wine and chocolate tones with notes of lemon and citrus. This deep roast is pretty intense for the coffee drinkers but is certain ally worth a shot, especiallyif your too full to fit in dessert. Just like you are wine tasting inhale the the coffee and you are able to instantly taste the lemon hints that are showcased in the bean.

It was a great first experience eating Ethiopian and engaging in their culture and eating with your hands, and I can't wait to experience it again and try out more of this flavoursome cuisine.

The Abyssinian
277 Racecourse rd,
Kensington, VIC
The Abyssinian on Urbanspoon

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