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 😉
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:
– 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 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
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!
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:
1. Doro Alicha (free range chicken, hardboiled egg stew seasoned with turmeric, garlic, ginger)
2. Gomen (steamed collard greens simmered with minced onions and garlic)
3. Keiy Sire (sliced beets sautéed with onions, tomato sauce, and olive oil)
4. Tikikl Gomen (chopped cabbage, carrots and other vegetables in a mild sauce)
5. Ye Kik Alicha (split peas simmered in finely chopped onions, garlic, ginger and turmeric)
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!
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.
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 =)