Short answer: yes! But read on… Recently someone suggested I try Ethiopian cuisine. It came as quite a surprise that there was such a thing in Kathmandu. But I thought, well why not? Later I discovered the two ladies responsible for producing, what turns out to be delicious food, are in my Pilates class. The city is indeed small! Betty Attfield and, her business partner, Halima, both came to Nepal a year ago when their spouses transferred here. Both being from Ethiopia it didn’t take long for them to meet up and become friends. From this friendship, Addis Ethiopian Cuisine Kathmandu was born!
“Often I have found work in the countries we have been posted to but this is the first time I have been involved in food. We started Addis Ethiopian Cuisine more as a hobby and a way to introduce people to our culture,” states Betty. “We both prepare the food, but Halima is the real chef here.” So what exactly does Ethiopian food consist of? Like rice is central to Nepali cuisine, a flatbread known as injera is central to Ethiopian food. With a slight spongy texture and made of teff, a gluten-free grain found in Ethiopia, this bread is prepared in a way not dissimilar to an Indian dosa. Spread out over the plate, the food is both laid on the bread (like a banana leaf ) and scooped up with the bread (like a roti). The bread has a slightly tangy, lemony flavour as it is fermented. I wondered if teff was available in Nepal or was in imported? “We bring teff from Ethiopia but obviously we cannot bring huge quantities. So we combine teff with millet from Nepal to make it go further. Halima is the expert on producing the injera,” Betty.
Wot is the collective name (like ‘curry’) of the spice-filled vegan and meat based stews which are then ladled onto the injera. Lentils, split peas, chickpeas, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, green beans and spices are found in the different types of wot. Salads, spinach, kale and ayib (cottage cheese) are served as side dishes. The meat dishes can be chicken, beef or mutton. Somewhat like the masala used in Nepali dishes, berbere serves as the base for many of the wot. Berebere is a combination of powdered chilli and other spices. We find familiar spices in this cuisine such as cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and ginger, so as I was told, it is not so very different on the local palate. Which might be one reason for its success. Although the chefs report it is mainly foreigners who come to eat their food. We should change that right now!
A traditional alcoholic drink is also available from Addis Ethiopian Cuisine – tej. Tej is a honey wine not unlike mead that you can still find in parts of the UK. Made of honey and gesho (as species of buckthorn) it is the gesho that gives it a slightly bitter, fermented taste. And like all good wine, the longer you store it the better and more potent it becomes! If you don’t like wine, then there is also Ethiopian coffee served black, in small cups, and in a traditional coffee ceremony. Halima roasts some coffee beans (Ethiopian of course) in a pan and infuses the whole room with the aroma.
If you would like to try some of this unique, yet very popular now in USA (according to the New York Times) because of its vegan and gluten-free properties, Halima and Betty can be found every Friday evening from 6pm at Top of the World in Jhamsikhel (and I loved the fact recorded Ethiopian music is thrown in!) and at the Le Sherpa Saturday Market. Reservations should be made in advance for dinner as space is limited.
For further information please see Addis Ethiopian Cuisine Kathmandu on Facebook.