A three-hour-long Ethiopian meal with strong coffee and popcorn to end with
I’ve always believed that Chennai is a great food city for the experimental diner and this fact has been proven to me time and again. And that super muggy April afternoon was no different, as I sat down to a traditional Ethiopian meal at Abyssinian, the eight-month-old Ethiopian cuisine restaurant in Alwarpet.
Having eaten Ethiopian food—in Liverpool, the U.K., of all places during my student days there—I had a fair understanding of what was in store for me and my rather clueless friends. Called a messob platter, the main meal is meant for four people. And this is had sitting down at a traditional low table, with all eating from the same large steel platter.
Onto this, a soft, spongy neer dosa meets appam-like bread called injera (which can be made from an indigenous Ethiopian grass called teff, rice and in our case ragi or finger millet) is first placed as a lining (and more rolls on the side) onto which each diner gets their own daub of yummy dishes.
And thus began a procession of delectable offerings like yebeg bozena shiro, a delicious mutton and chickpea powder-based dish, slow-cooked with Ethiopia’s popular—and spicy—red berbere sauce. Mesir wot, a divine (and beautifully coloured) combination of split red lentils simmered in spicy berbere sauce was next. The simple, yet flavourful fasolia followed, which is a dish of string beans, sautéed with carrots and caramelised onions.
The main ‘star’ of course, was Ethiopia’s national dish, doro wat—a thick chicken stew with boiled eggs, a sweet onion base and loads of berbere. Not to be left behind was the doro tibs a very light, fragrant chicken preparation seasoned with rosemary. Balancing all the meat-y excesses was shiro (chickpea stew), dinich wot (curried potatoes) and finally yatakilt wot made up of curried vegetables.
We ended this almost-three-hours-long meal with a splash of traditional, strong Ethiopian coffee into which one can add sugar or salt and Ethiopia’s version of ghee called niter. Accompanying this was the de rigueur bowl of popcorn that no post-prandial coffee drinking session in Ethiopia can ever be complete without!
—Yatakilt wot, made up of curried vegetables
—Delicious mutton stew, yebeg bozena shiro
—Dinich wot, a curried potato dish
—Doro Tibs, a light chicken preparation seasoned with rosemary
—Fasolia string beans, sautéed with carrots and caramelised onions
—Inguday tibs, sautéed mushrooms and vegetables
—Berbere-spiced doro wat chicken stew with a boiled egg
—Powdered chickpea stew, shiro
—In the center of platter: Niter kibbeh, a clarified butter similar to ghee