By Sofia Levin |
When 25-year-old Saba Alemayoh visits relatives in Ethiopia, she packs her least favorite clothes – suitcases are emptied on arrival and filled with local ingredients to bring back to Melbourne. Her first business, Saba’s Health Foods, grew from friends asking for zip-lock bags of teff (gluten-free flour used to make injera flatbread). When teff was awarded superfood status in the media, Alemayoh began selling to health food stores and at farmers’ markets. Now she’s gone a step further and opened a 50-seat restaurant.
There are traditional touches in the pared-back space: a series of regional photographs on canvases here, a colourful arrangement of traditional woven baskets there. The upstairs function space is a week away, and at 1pm from Friday to Sunday there’s an Ethiopian coffee roasting demonstration (add a shot of local ouzo to kickstart the weekend).
Alemayoh’s mother is in the kitchen fermenting injera and cooking birsen (split red lentils with Ethiopian spices) and keyih sebhi (rich and tender red lamb stew). A couple of Sudanese dishes also feature, a nod to Alemayoh’s childhood as an immigrant in Sudan, where her mother sold tea and coffee at the front of the house to get by.
The menu is completely gluten-free and vegans and vegetarians are well catered for, thanks to the majority orthodox Christian population in Ethiopia observing more than 200 religious days a year of a vegan diet.
“Tradition doesn’t stand still, you lose bits and incorporate bits – I want to share the culture with a wider group of people,” says Alemayoh. As if on cue, a woman pops her head in, “do you have a menu I can look at?” she asks, “I’ve never had Ethiopian food before.”
Open Tue and Thu 5.30pm-10.30pm; Wed and Fri-Sun noon-10.30pm.
328 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 0421 009 519, sabashealthfoods.com.au
Source: Good Food
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