The Twin Cities is home to one of the largest Ethiopian diaspora populations in the United States, and the region has a correspondingly vibrant dining scene.
By Stacy Brooks (City Pages) |
Ethiopian cuisine is the ultimate comfort food for a Minnesota winter—but a surprising number of Twin Citians are missing out on the delights of doro wat and injera.
“When we first opened in 2016, we served many people who had never eaten Ethiopian or Eritrean food before,” says Genet Ghebre, owner of Ghebre’s Restaurant in St. Paul. “I was surprised by how many people hadn’t tried it.”
The Twin Cities is home to one of the largest Ethiopian diaspora populations in the United States, and the region has a correspondingly vibrant dining scene. Fasika, Dilla’s Ethiopian Restaurant, and the Red Sea have earned their status as popular standbys; more recent additions worth visiting include Bolé Ethiopian Cuisine and Ghebre’s. The first thing newcomers to the cuisine will notice is that it’s eaten sans utensils. Instead, diners use pieces of injera—a spongy flatbread not dissimilar to a pancake—to pick up each bite.
“Think of the injera as a vehicle for the sauce,” says Solomon Haile, who co-owns Bolé Ethiopian Cuisine in St. Paul with his wife, Rekik Abaineh. The tangy bread is made with teff, a nutrient-dense whole grain, and it tastes somewhat sour on its own. But when rolled up with stews, that flavor is beautifully balanced out.
“Other African countries may have similar stews, but they are served over rice,” Abaineh explains. “The sauce and injera combination is unique to Ethiopia, and the well-combined flavors are also what makes the cuisine unique.”
Intimidated? There’s no need to be: The staff at Ghebre’s will be happy to provide a demonstration of how to eat with injera. “We bring out a little plate of food and show them how to do it. Customers pick it up easily—we appreciate their willingness to try new things,” says Ghebre. She adds that Americans aren’t exactly strangers to finger foods: Tacos share a similar flat-bread-wrapped-around-a-filling concept.
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