SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Argus Leader)―When was the last time dinner was a party? I don’t mean a dinner party, or as is usually the case at Secret Fork Headquarters, a party where we also have dinner. I mean dinner that is the party — a celebration of flavors, discovery, joy, laughter, friendship and life. If loading all those things on a big platter and scooping them up with your hands sounds like a party to you, put on some stretchy pants and head over to Lalibela Restaurant over to 200 S Kiwanis Ave, Sioux Falls, SD (10th and Kiwanis).

Lalibela Restaurant was previously open at 10th and Grange. After some street reconstruction, that spot is now the home of a shiny new convenience store. Fortunately, Lalibela’s status as a victim of the bustling local commercial real estate market was not permanent. I, for one, am extremely happy about that, because for some inexplicable reason, I never made it over there.

Lalibela Restaurant serves Ethiopian cuisine. Despite my PhD in World Geo-Political, Cultural, and Culinary Studies from UBS (University of Basement Sofa), I know next to nothing about food from that corner of the globe. Around here, when people hear “Ethiopia” the image that comes to mind is widespread famine. But if you stop there, you’re missing an incredible amount of history and some great cuisine. And take my word for it, you don’t want to miss the food.

If you’re new to Ethiopian food, you need to be prepared for a couple of things. For openers, no utensils. You’ll get plenty of napkins, and you’ll need them. But you won’t see a fork, spoon, or knife of any sort. The dishes are served on, and meant to be consumed with, injera — a large pancake-like flatbread. It’s unique and will grow on you. Injera is made from teff flour — an ancient grain native to North Africa. It’s ground and mixed with water and then left to ferment a bit, giving injera a sourdough sort of quality. Teff is apparently very low in gluten, if not gluten-free altogether, so the texture of injera is light and spongy. It has an almost supernatural ability to hold up to the dishes served with it.

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