Traveling through Egyptian food: Photo essay

Ahlan wa sahlan! It is Cultural Tidbits Monday and today we Travel through Egyptian food! As you already know, on this mini series, I’ll be featuring some of my favorite ethnic foods and restaurants through educational (and quite yummy) photo essays. Let’s get started! As I lived in the Arab world for almost 16 months, I will admit that the Egyptian food selections of today’s photo essay are pretty biased (read: My favorite dishes). However, that does not make each dish any less of an Egyptian food right? That being said, I did my best to pick some of the most distinctive dishes among my favorites. Enjoy!

Mezzes

Egyptian food, taameya

Egyptian food: Taameya inside a pita (Photo: Politicalmonkey2010.wordpress.com)

Taameya / falafel

Had to start with the taameya: The Egyptian falafel. Mashed beans made into balls, then deep fried. Middle Eastern goodness that most of us have tried at least once. The Egyptian taameya, however, is a different kind and has a quite distinctive flavor and deep pistachio-green color: Different from any other falafel I had tried elsewhere. They use different kinds of beans in different Arab countries, thus the different falafel varieties. Certainly, one could travel all over the Middle East simply trying to find the perfect ball of falafel. A mission I might attempt to accomplish soon…

Baba ghanoush

Egyptian food, baba ghanoush

Baba ghanoush: Pita dip made of mashed eggplant mixed with spices, typically bathed in olive oil and garlic

I will never forget the baba ghanoush I had on a daily basis in Cairo, particularly the one at my favorite restaurant in Dokki, called Taza. Walking distance from my house, it was part of my evening walk back from Arabic classes at AUC. Its garlicky, even smoky kind of flavor is what made Taza’s baba ghanoush the best in town. I tried many others and none can compare, so make sure you head to 146 al Tahrir Street if you go through Cairo, Egypt and sample this Arab delicacy. What is interesting is that this great review comes from a person who usually hateseggplants. So if you are like me, please don’t give your back to this dish: It is a must-try!

Fuul

Egyptian food, fuul

Egyptian fuul (mashed fava beans, simmered for over 8 hrs) with crazy toppings. Photo: Politicalmonkey2010.wordpress.com

Ahh, fuul. This Egyptian food is so dynamic (is that the right adj? lol) that I would sometimes eat it 5 times a day without even thinking about it. I would had it with falafel and eggs in my morning pita pocket; for lunch with a couple of kofta pieces; a pita pocket filled with just fuul as a snack – the possibilities are endless. Basically, fuul is to Egyptian food what rice and beans are to Latin cuisine (now we’re talking, I know). My favorite concoction must be fuul alaskandereya(literally meaning “Alexandria fuul,” from the Egyptian city on the Mediterranean): Fuul spiced up with hot peppers . They were basically the Robin to my Batman when I lived in Egypt.

Kibbeh

Egyptian food kibbeh

Egyptian food: Kibbeh

Egyptian food open kibbeh

Egyptian food: Opened kibbeh (Photo: Cassaendra, Sittoo’s, Parma, OH

Another mouth-watering Egyptian food, kibbeh rounds up my Top 3 mezzes list. What I find the most curious about this dish is that it looks and tastes so similar to a Puerto Rican fast food, called the alcapurria. While the Boricua appetizer is made of either cassava or plantains, the shell of the kibbeh is made of cracked wheat. Also, the ground beef that fills them is spiced differently. However, when it comes to looks, the Puerto Rican alcapurria seems like an elongated kibbeh. Wow, this is truly torture…I want some now!

Main courses

Egyptian food: Fiteer

Egyptian fiteer (Photo:Twincitieseats.blogspot.com)

Fiteer

Doubling as appetizer/desert for a table or a meal for one, fiteer is another Egyptian food I often have dreams of at night. A hybrid between a crepe and a pizza pie, fiteer is made of several light, buttery sheets put together and then stuffed with all kinds of ingredients: From veggies to lamb, to cheese and chicken, even Nutella (chocolate spread) and nuts! It is absolutely delicious, could either be your app or desert, and you could eat it every day for a month and not get tired of it: Too many varieties to choose from!. Be careful when eating it hot from local restaurants and stands though: The nastiest case of Pharaoh tummy, aka food poisoning, while I lived in the Middle East was caused by some old cheese stuffed in my fiteer from well-known Egyptian rest. chain GAD. So smell your food and make sure the cheese looks melty and “right” prior to consumption!

Kushari

Egyptian food, kushari extra onions

My favorite kushari: Extra fried onions, please!

Egyptian food kushari

Mix well — and never judge a book by its cover!

Oh my kushari. The quintessential Egyptian food, you can’t say you’ve been to Egypt if you haven’t eaten this dish. At first sight, it looks like a bunch of leftovers of macaroni, rice, lentils, fried onions and salsa dumped together. However, if you can get past the looks, your taste buds are in for a real treat. I love to add some extra garlic sauce and double the fried onions topping, in addition to a hint of the super-spicy Egyptian pepper sauce provided. Your kushari stand attendant always remembers how you like it if you are a regular like me, which is a plus (because, naturally, i would then get 3 times the fried onion topping. Aiiiiwa!). Best in town is debatable: Current competition is between Koshary Abou Tarek (16 Maarouf St., Champollion, Cairo) and Koshary El Tahrir (12, Youssef El Gendy St. ,Off of Bab El Louk St.). Naturally, reviews are quite mixed. I went to both and can’t pick a favorite, so I recommend you pay a visit to both restaurants and decide which is the best Cairene kushariyourself!

Shish tawook

Egyptian food, shish tawook

Shish tawook: The Egyptian chicken kebab (Photo: Basel15, Wiki Commons)

Typically known as simply “the grill,” my favorite plate of animal goodness includes some shish tawook/shish kebab and lamb kofta. I would typically buy this dish at least once a week at Taza rest., ask for a tower of pita and simply roll the bread around the meat, then dip it all in the big plastic container of baba ghanoushI would always get on the side. Egyptian food heaven: I dare you to try that.

Kofta

Egyptian food, kofta

Egyptian kofta: Lamb meat wrapped around a thick skewer, grilled, then skewer is taken out prior to serving (Photo: Food Stories, Flickr)

That shall be it for part five of the mini series, Traveling through food! Hope I piqued your interest (and appetite) for Egyptian food further and you venture out to try something new.

Egyptian food, sweet fiteer

Sweet fiteer, topped with honey and cheese, for dessert: Anyone? (Photo: Bootsintheoven.com)

Have you ever had Egyptian food? What’s your favorite dish?

Traveling through Spanish food (photo essay)

Traveling Through Spanish food on this week’s Cultural Tidbits Monday! As you already know, on this mini series, I’ll be featuring some of my favorite ethnic foods and restaurants through educational (and quite yummy) photo essays. Let’s get started!

When someone utters “Spanish food,” what comes to mind? Typically, it is a misused term in America, where all kinds of Latin American dishes are called “Spanish food” indiscriminately by gringos and even American Latinos alike. Properly, though, Spanish food refers to cuisine that comes from that European nation that was once filled with Conquistadors heading West to discover (and dominate) the New World. Now, are you ready to discover some Iberian delicacies?!

Spanish food Museo Del Jamon

AHHHHHH!!!!!!!! *runs inside*

Bocadillos

First, I’ll start with bocadillos (or “mini bites”). Every time I visit Spain, I must visit El Museo Del Jamón (literally “The Ham Museum”) to eat a tumaca, crosán mixto and cañita at least 3 times a day. Daily. During my whole stay. Just ONE EURO each. My body basically requires them! Everyone at Museo Del Jamón knows me by name (and country) now: “La María, directamente de PUERTO RICO!” such a lovely thing to hear as I walk in =D

Spanish food Museo Del Jamon

You have arrived to your destination: Museo Del Jamón

Spanish food Museo Del Jamon

Me @ El Museo Del Jamon (Ham Museum) - Plaza del Sol, Madrid. Most bocadillos & cañita (beer) for ONE EURO. Naturally, the best Spanish place EVER.

Spanish food Museo Del Jamon

My favorite Spanish snacks (from left): A half-destroyed tumaca, piece of bread with garlic, olive oil tomato sauce & topped with Serrano ham * Chorizo tapas, sweet and salty varieties * Crossán Mixto, elongated croissant topped with Serrano ham, your choice of Spanish cheese & olive oil. Lastly, cañitas (beers) to wash it all down. Can I go back NOW, please?

As you can see, I have a slight obsession with Jamón Serrano *grins* umm, yeah. It is basically one of the most amazing pieces of meat your mouth will ever touch. Savour. Enjoy. I chew each bite ever so slowly. It is one of those heavenly things that you just can’t explain, but rather have someone eat in order to understand

Spanish food Museo Del Jamon

Where the magic happens (Museo Del Jamón display)

Spanish food Jamon Serrano

Glorious, glorious ham (Photo: Hector Garcia, Wiki Commons)

Another important ingredient in most of my favorite bocadillos and Spanish tapas in general are cheeses: Such a delightful variety! Combine them with amazing Jamón Serrano or Ibérico and…

Spanish food - Serrano ham and cheese tapas

...transport your palate to the 8th Heaven (Photo: Juan Fernández, Wiki Commons)

Spanish ham and cheese

Spanish ham and cheese - ate them all!

Wine, cheese and Serrano ham party, Madrid

Me (far right, red top) at a wine & cheese (and Serrano ham) party in Madrid, Spain

Other typical ingredients of tapas are olives/olive oil, garlic, onions, chorizo (hot, mild or sweet), almonds, chillies, parsley, basil, orégano, paprika, peppers and tomatoes.

Spanish food - tapa de patatas

Patatas (potato) tapas - by Tamorlan, Wiki Commons

Tapas: Not just appetizers

In Spain, tapas are not simply appetizers, though. In fact, it is quite common to group several tapas and make up a whole meal. Furthermore, the same items may be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or a midnight dinner! There’s a very blurred line of things to eat in the morning or at 10 PM, which is another thing I loved about Spain since I’m the gal that typically has pizza for breakfast because she is too hungry for anything less 😉

Spanish food - meatball tapas

Tapa de albóndigas (meatballs), typical on a cool autumn night or winter day (Photo: Tamorlan, Wiki Commons)

eggplant with salmorejo tapas

Deep-fried eggplant with salmorejo dip sauce (tomatoes, bread, oil, garlic, vinegar). Photo: Tamorlan, Wiki Commons

Another quintessential Spanish food is paella. This dish, a hearty rice concoction, is nothing short of amazing as well. There are many different types, so I recommend a culinary tour around Spain to sample them all!

Valencian paella

Valencian paella (Photo: Wiki Commons)

paella negra

Paella negra - black rice paella (Photo: Ralf Roletschek Marcela, Wiki Commons)

Shellfish paella

Shellfish paella (Photo: Manuel M. Vicente, Flikr)

Now that I have given you a broad overview of Spanish food, I will share my favorite dishes of Ceviche, a chain of Spanish restaurants in the state of Florida. Surprisingly, very very good chain! I have visited both the Tampa & orlando locations and my favorite tapas tasted exactly the same. I go there often and absolutely love their sangría, too!

piquillos rellenos

Piquillos rellenos: Roasted red peppers stuffed with ground veal and mild chorizo sausage, served with a Spanish sherry sauce. Photo not from Ceviche, but dish looks very similar (Photo: chefclaudianotebook.blogspot.com

Champiñones de Sevilla

Champiñones de Sevilla: Four types of mushrooms sautéed with sherry over goat cheese and toasted bread, which is not pictured (Photo: tiffanycsteinke, Flikr)

That shall be it for part four of the mini series, Traveling through food! Hope I piqued your interest (and appetite) for Spanish food further and you venture out to try something new.

Spanish sangria

have a Spanish sangría - SALUD! (Photo: Frank K., Flikr)

Have you ever had Spanish food? What’s your favorite dish?

Traveling Through Indian Food (photo essay)

It is Cultural Tidbits Monday and we continue with our new mini series. Today, we are traveling through Indian food! As you already know, on this series, I’ll be featuring some of my favorite ethnic foods and restaurants through educational (and quite yummy) photo essays.

My obsession with Indian food

Ahh, this post will make me really really hungry, because Indian food happens to be my favorite cuisine in the world. Actually, it is more an obsession with any Asian curry, and well, Indians happen to have a heck of a lot of different varieties. Mmmm, thinking about thick curries perks up all my senses: they look, taste and smell incredible. First, I’ll describe one I tasted for the first time last week:

Chicken khorma

Indian food chicken khorma

Indian food: Chicken khorma in all its glory (photo: bellaonline.com)

I basically told my server at India’s Grill Kennedy: “it’s been a while since I’ve eaten Indian food and I’m bad with names, so please just serve me the thickest curry you offer.” The big grin of the server was priceless, as he pointed to the menu and exclaimed “Chicken Khorma!”

Definitely could not refute his choice after he said it was a very thick yellow curry and the menu read “boneless chicken cooked in a creamy almond sauce.” I could not help but think: “amazing in my mouth, good for my skin. BINGO

That’s not all I got on the massive entree, oh no. In addition to a huge portion of chicken khorma and accompanying basmati rice, I also got two additional decently-sized sides: paneer butter masala and fried spinach pakoras:

Indian food paneer butter masala

Indian food: Paneer butter masala and some naan *melts*

Paneer butter masala

Paneer is Indian cottage cheese, while butter masala means it is cooked in a buttery tomato sauce. To me, it smelled and tasted like another delicious curry. My gosh. I want it again.

Indian food spinach pakoras

Indian food: Crispy spinach pakoras app (photo: eatnstayfit.blogspot.com)

Fried spinach pakoras

The crispy, fried delicacy, are made of what seems to be batter and, well, spinach. Flavourful and a bit spicy, they are not as heavy as they look. Perfect!

Samosas

My dining buddy this time was my roomie Alan, and since he had never had Indian food before, I had to order the famous Indian samosas as the app. Of course, it is pretty tough to mess up a samosa, especially when the place you walk into plays nothing but Bollywood movies on a big screen. Then, I just knew they would be fantastic:

Indian food samosas

Indian food: Samosas (photo: lifesambrosia.com)

Lamb masala

Talking of my dining buddy, he is Jewish and can never say no to lamb whenever it is offered, so he went for the lamb masala: tender lamb cooked in a creamy, tomato-based curry sauce. I had a bite and it was heavenly – will have to order a full portion next time!

Indian food lamb masala

Indian food: Lamb masala

Malai kofta

I have a special relationship with this particular Indian food, as the first time I tried it was at the Sub Kuch Milega hostel for Eid el Adha in Israel…ahhh, brings back so many wonderful memories! I grin every time I remember that trip and that hostel *happy sigh*

Coming from the Hindi phrase (and meaning “everything is possible”), this funky Tel Aviv hostel is the epitome of how I imagined a hostel to be before I ever stepped into one. The bright colors, permeating Indian spices scent due to its 24-hour Indian food kitchen, the 32-shekel-all-you-can-eat Indian food buffet, 24-hour bar…you can only imagine. The vibe of the place was unique and got to meet several locals that simply hang out at the place to eat and drink. We were fortunate enough to meet a group of Israelis that were planning a Palestinian solidarity “peace walk” — now that’s something you won’t see on the news! Sad isn’t it?

Ok, I got drifted away! Back to malai kofta: they are croquettes made of ground vegetables, nuts, raisins, and cheese smothered in a thick, creamy sauce. Once again, that thick sauce is shock-full of Indian spices goodness, bringing Asian curries to mind again.

Indian food malai kofta

Indian food: Malai kofta (photo: evernewrecipes.com)

Mmm, can’t wait to eat Indian food again! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to travel to India yet. When I do though, I know I’ll be a very, very happy camper. This fascinating subcontinent is in my Top 3 destinations to visit.

Do you like Indian food? What’s your favorite dish?

Traveling through Puerto Rican Food (photo essay)

It is Cultural Tidbits Monday and we continue with our new mini series, today Traveling Through Puerto Rican food! Tough one, as this means food from my homeland–hard to pick just a few dishes! But I will choose, I mean do my best. =)

As you already know, on the series, I’ll be featuring some of my favorite ethnic foods and restaurants through educational (and quite yummy) photo essays. Buen provecho!

Puerto Rican food: The fast food trucks

I was just in the Enchanted Island earlier this month, so I made sure I savoured some of my favorite Puerto Rican food. let’s begin with what I always miss the most: Boricua FAST FOOD! 😀

First, let me begin by explaining that some of the best Puerto Rican fast food comes in a truck by the ocean…

Puerto Rican food truck

Gotta love them Puerto Rican food trucks on random beach sides in the middle of a highway

After finding your perfect fast food truck (which btw, mine was closet o the town of Dorado, PR), you simply ask for your banquet. I knew exactly what I wanted… Alcapurria filled with crab meat, pastelillo (aka empanada) filled with chapin (red snapper), and fried toston with crab meat. Oh.My.Gosh

Puerto Rican food

Typical Puerto Rican food staples! From left: An alcapurria (still untouched), Goya hot sauce, Coco Rico coconut soda, mojito spicy seasoning, mayo ketchup (yes, mayo + ketchup in a bottle)

Let’s start with my # 1: The alcapurria (on left). It can be made of either mashed plantain or Yuca (cassava), basically making a “dough,” which is stuffed, rolled, and then deep fried. Typical fillings include ground beef, shrimp, chapin (red snapper) or crab meat. My favorite is the latter, then slightly seasoned with some drops of hot sauce while eating =D and, ahh, how can we forget my Coco Rico? Such a refreshing soda, made of coconut water and sugar cane. Yum!

Puerto Rican food

From left: Alcapurria (almost fully eaten), toston filled with crab meat, pastelillo (aka empanada) filled with chapin (red snapper) and Coco Rico soda

Now to my # 2: The toston. The best part of this one is that it can be anything: You can make a gigantic one and fill it with a seafood salad; you could use it as an edible bowl for whatever Puerto Rican food your little heart desires; make a couple of small tostones as sides of a meat dish with rice and beans; or finally, like I did on this sunny day at the food truck, simply eat it as a small appetizer. It is so easy to make, too: Simply buy a green plantain, slice it (medium thinkness), dip it in garlic salt, fry it lightly, take it out, smash it (so it is like a thin disc), fry it again until crispy: That’s IT! Then put whatever you want on top. I felt like crab meat this time =D

Puerto Rican food

A better view of my Puerto Rican food. Of course, I had already killed the alcapurria

My favorite thing about Puerto Rican fast food is that most stands (or food trucks are alway located by the ocean, so great views can be enjoyed while nom noming *wink* while the food truck i chose this time didn’t have the best view or beach…

Puerto Rican food

Those waters were dirty from all the mud and soil movement due to the heavy rains of Hurricane Irene. But anyway, gotta love them Puerto Rican food trucks stopping right by the ocean! Here I’m enjoying my alcapurria with crab and CoCo Rico soft drink =D

Kiosks located in Luquillo, for example, are awesome for both the quality of their food + views:

Puerto Rican food Luquillo Kiosks

Puerto Rican food kiosk in Luquillo. The cigar-shaped “tacos” are just like the typical empanadas, but shaped differently. Can be filled with lobster, shrimp, beef, chicken, red snapper (Photo: GastroChic.com)

Luquillo, Puerto Rico

Gorgeous beach just a few steps away from delicious Puerto Rican food in Luquillo (photo: GastroChic.com)

Puerto Rican food: Samplers

Before I jump to the heavy weights, I need to give you some other samplers of Puerto Rican fast food…

Pinchos Puerto Rican food

Pinchos (Photo: PuertoRicoDayTrips.com)

^^ Pinchos = Puerto Rican shish kabobs. BBQ chicken or pork, you name it. Seasoned well with good ol’ adobo (Latin spices conveniently mixed packed in a bottle). Nicely divided pieces with crispy tostones. Enough said (nom nom!)

Puerto Rican food, bacalaito

Bacalaito, Puerto Rican fast food specialty. Photo: PuertoRicoDayTrips.com

^^ Bacalaitos, made of salty cod fish. It is basically a bit of batter and cod fish put together, fried. Final product? A crispy outer layer with a somewhat-chewy inner layer. They are really fatty, so just have to be in the mood for them. Sometimes I like them, sometimes I don’t. But when they come nicely crispy and fresh, you just can’t say no!

Puerto Rican food: The heavy weights

Now the heavy weights *cracks fingers* you see, it is tough to choose between them. In fact, so tough, that I am considering writing a Puerto Rican food part 2 of this series…but only if your request it! =P at any rate, let’s start with my favorite heavy delicacy, of course: The MOFONGO.

Puerto Rican food, stuffed mofongo

The good picture of stuffed mofongo (Photo: lillibakescakes.wordpress.com)

Seems like everything I love about Puerto Rican food has something to do with either plantains or yuca (cassava) or seafood. Mmm. To the foreigner, the simplest way to explain what mofongo is: Amazingly-seasoned mashed plantains. Glorified mashed plantains stuffed with goodness. What’s goodness? It could either be calamari/octopus, seafood mix, or just lobster, shrimp, pork or beef. You name it. People choose different adjectives to describe and order their mofongo, you know what I mean?

I had my glorious mofongo this time by a stationary Puerto Rican food truck (attached to a casual restaurant) close to my parents’ house in Caguas, Puerto Rico. This time, I chose to stuff it with pulled chicken breast, soaked in garlic goodness (sorry, my mobile camera sucks!):

chicken mofongo Puerto Rican food

The chicken mofongo

In true heavy weight fashion, I couldn’t *just* have stuffed mofongo…

Puerto Rican food, asopao

My seafood and rice asopao. Way more delicious than this crappy photo can attest

…I also had some amazing asopao (aka ridiculously-seasoned, heavy-charged Puerto Rican soup)! The seafood kind this time: Mine had chunks of lobster, jumbo shrimp, octopus–and some yellow rice for good measure. The little disks you see on the right? You guessed it: Crispy plantain tostones! All.To.Die.For.

Puerto Rican drinks

How did I wash all that Puerto Rican food down? I had to make a tough decision between a Coco Rico and…

Puerto Rican Malta India

Puerto Rican Malta India – very sweet malt beverage

My beloved 100% Puerto Rican Malta India won the duel. How could I say no to India? I’d had enough white lately (no offense!)–I needed some brown sweetness in my life. And ahhhh, was it all worth it. Oh please Ms. India, take a canoe and come back to me!!

Hmmm, so I am both getting hungry again, nostalgic and thinking this post is too long already. *sigh* I was only getting started with the Puerto Rican food! Alright alright, some of us need to sleep while others need to go back to the frozen lunches I mean good pre-packaged food =) if you wish to learn more about Puerto Rican food, just let me know on a comment below and I will make sure I write another educational, nom-nom post for ya, yeah?

Puerto Rican roads

Have you ever had Puerto Rican food? What’s your favorite dish?

Traveling through food: Ethiopian cuisine (photo essay)

Hope you guys had a great weekend 😀 as many of you already know, I kick off every week with Cultural Tidbits Monday. And so today, I decided to start a new mini series: Traveling through Food, starting with Ethiopian! On the series, I’ll be featuring some of my favorite ethnic foods and restaurants through educational (and quite yummy) photo essays.

Last night, I went to Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant in Tampa, FL. I had heard about it several times and never found the time to go until this weekend. Please note, this was an impromptu trip while I was at a friend’s house watching football, so I didn’t have my camera with me. However, I did my homework and still found some pictures of the dishes we savored for your viewing pleasure 😉

Ethiopian food

Ethiopian platter by ethiopianrestauranttampa.com

It was my first time eating this exotic African cuisine, so I decided to go for the Appetizer sampler and The Queen’s Eight–just to get a feel of Ethiopian food. First piece of advice, by the way: Always order your Ethiopian food spicy. In my experience, asking for the dishes to be “medium spicy” was futile and actually made them quite bland (ahem, “Westernized”). I should have figured, asking for anything less than Ethiopian spicy would strip the meals’ original flavors. Lesson learned!

With that said, the meals were still tasty, if quite different from what my palate is used to. The appetizer sampler included:

Ethiopian hummus

Buticha, yellow dip on top, azifah & a sambusa by denalovesfood.blogspot.com

Buticha (aka Ethiopian-style hummus: Ground chickpeas mixed with olive oil, diced onions, garlic, hot pepper and mustard). Very mild

Azifah (Whole lentils blended with diced onions, green peppers, jalapeno pepper, mustard and olive oil). Ordered medium, which ended up being not spicy at all. Gotta go Ethiopian spicy next time!

Ethiopian food sambusa

Beef sambusa

Ethiopian beef sambusa (homemade thin flat bread hand-wrapped and stuffed with a blend of minced beef, fresh garlic, onions, peppers and ginger and parsley. Served hot) – my favorite of the bunch. So flavorful, even better than all the Indian sambusa varieties I’ve ever had! I think this little pastry in Ethiopian spicy would be a little too much for my tongue…but that’s just me

Injera (Ethiopian-style bread). Looks exactly like crepes, but slightly fluffier, brown, and rolled. You could either take the little injera roll for dipping or unroll it, which I found better for bigger bites. Fair warning: it is so filling! I almost didn’t finish my meal

Ethiopian food, injera bread

Injera bread by imonlyhereforthefood.com

Speaking of injera — no real utensils are provided, except for a little spoon with the appetizer. The point of the “Ethiopian meal experience” is to eat with your hands, using the injera to grab the sauces, veggies, and/or meat. Having lived in the Middle East fr 16 months, I was thrilled to have an excuse to eat with my hands again =D haha!

Vegetarian Ethiopian food platter

Vegetarian platter by hungryvegantraveler.blogspot.com

After our appetizer, my friend Will and I decided to go for the Queen’s Eight platter (a variation of it pictured above), just to sample several Ethiopian dishes and pick a favorite for next time. Our other friends chose the doro alicha (classic Ethiopian chicken) and yebeg tibs (Ethiopian lamb sautéed in berbere sauce). In all honesty, my favorite plate was the lamb tibs! So sad it wasn’t included on my combination platter–but at least I know for next time =)

My Queen’s Eight platter included a big spoonful of all of these dishes:

Ethiopian food, Doro alicha

Doro alicha Ethiopian chicken by imonlyhereforthefood.com

1. Doro Alicha (free range chicken, hardboiled egg stew seasoned with turmeric, garlic, ginger)

Ethiopian food, gomen

Gomen by hungryvegantraveler.blogspot.com

2. Gomen (steamed collard greens simmered with minced onions and garlic)

Ethiopian food, Keiy Sire (beets)

Keiy Sire (burgundy-colored cubes on left) by thespiceisland.blogspot.com

3. Keiy Sire (sliced beets sautéed with onions, tomato sauce, and olive oil)

Ethiopian Tikikl Gomen

Tikikl Gomen by hungryvegantraveler.blogspot.com

4. Tikikl Gomen (chopped cabbage, carrots and other vegetables in a mild sauce)

Ethiopian food, Ye Kik Alicha

Ye Kik Alicha by hungryvegantraveler.blogspot.com

5. Ye Kik Alicha (split peas simmered in finely chopped onions, garlic, ginger and turmeric)

chicken tibs

Ethiopian chicken tibs by midtownlunch.com/los-angeles

6. Ethiopian Chicken Tibs (free range chicken sautéed with onions, jalapeno peppers, turmeric, Ethiopian spices, and rosemary in a mild sauce) – ordered mild, so no jalapeños on my plate–adding them next time!

Ethiopian food platter by gojoethiopiancuisine.com

7. Atkilit Alicha (carrots, potatoes and string beans in a mild sauce)

8. Ethiopian Foul (fava beans sautéed with onions, garlic, jalepenos, fresh tomatoes, seasonings and olive oil) – can’t remember if this was the 8th thing of my platter, though! I am guessing…there were too many weird names to remember =P I do know for sure that the lamb chops my friend ordered also had some foul in them, which made me smile as I had the Egyptian variety (pronounced “fuul“) every day for breakfast when I lived in Egypt.

lamb tibs

Yebeg Tibs by culinaryannotations.blogspot.com

The yebeg Tibs (lamb) plate was bigger, plus had a side of foul, all placed on a thin layer of injera bread. And you guessed it–no fork provided! =)

Yum, it was quite a feast indeed! I must emphasize again though, I feel that asking for the dishes to be mild took away most of its distinct flavor. In my opinion, my dishes were a bit bland, which I doubt is the case of authentic, spicy Ethiopian food. So if you have the opportunity to savor an Ethiopian meal, gather the courage to eat it as-is! And don’t forget to have a full pitcher of water ready on your table before you begin to eat *wink*

That shall be it for part one of the new mini series, Traveling through food! I personally can’t wait to burn my tongue (and throat and ears lol) at Queen of Sheba restaurant next time! =D I must add, the servers were very friendly and accommodating–always a plus =)

Have you ever had Ethiopian food? What’s your favorite dish?