Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

Injera-ous Consumption

Written by Marilyn Hawkes Category: Three Bites Issue: January 2016
Group Free

Get in a finger-food mood with the savory delights of Ethiopian cuisine.

Café Lalibela

849 W. University Dr., Tempe, 480-829-1939

A tutorial for the uninitiated: Ethiopian cuisine is typified by savory stews of meats and vegetables – including spicy red lentils, string beans and carrots, ground peas and collard greens – served en masse atop a large round of injera, spongy sour bread made from fermented teff, a grain that’s been a mainstay of Ethiopian cuisine for thousands of years. The stews are designed to be scooped up with bits of the crêpe-like injera using the right hand, no utensils. “We make them early in the morning so everything is fresh and simmers slowly all day,” Café Lalibela owner Salem Bayene says. Her most popular dish is the aromatic doro wat (pictured) – spicy chicken stew ($4.95) simmered in kibae (butter infused with ginger and garlic), Ethiopian berbere chili powder and onions. The fiery but tender chicken stakes claim as the Ethiopian national dish and is traditionally accompanied by hard-boiled eggs.

Abyssinia Restaurant and Café

842 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-795-4113

A cozy spot with eight or so tables, Abyssinia – which opened last July – offers a full Ethiopian menu with an accommodating waitstaff to help guide your choices. Order a meat and vegetarian combination plate (cost depends on selections) to experience the widest range of flavors. A couple of standouts to try: awaze tibs ($13.95), lean beef cubes sautéed in olive oil and stewed with fragrant red onions, mild green peppers, garlic and Ethiopian spices; and misir alicha ($10.99), creamy split lentils with red onions, olive oil, ground garlic and turmeric. Wash it down with a cup of sweet-scented kimeme tea ($2.50) perfumed with cloves and cinnamon.

Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant

3015 E. Thomas Rd., Phoenix, 602-840-3411

Another newish Ethiopian eatery (it opened in late 2012), Gojo serves up tasty veggie sambussas ($3 for three) in addition to the traditional stews. The hand-wrapped fried pastries are filled with a mix of brown lentils, onions, scallions, peppers and herbs and cheese injerger ($2.50), three layers of injera stuffed with Ethiopian cheese and topped with a mix of berbere, butter and oil. Ethiopia is known for its coffee, so be sure to try a cup of the rich, full-bodied brew ($3). On Mondays from 3-5 p.m., Gojo’s staff performs an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, where you can watch the beans being taken through their full cycle of preparation, from washing, roasting, crushing and boiling to serving the finished coffee from a traditional jebena (clay pot).