Poultry & Pork · Uncategorized

The Duo’s Ethnic Exploration: Ethiopian

Merkato Duo Dishes

Right in the heart of LA, there’s a small strip of Ethiopian eateries lined up to each other for several blocks. It was just a matter of time until this little neighborhood, appropriately called “Little Ethiopia,” was on our radar for one of our monthly Ethnic Explorations. We decided this was the month to venture into the African cuisine. Immediately, Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant and Market stood out among the many options in the area for its quaint market and gift shop filled with goodies.

Since neither of us was that familiar with Ethiopian food, we began our explorations with a proper meal at the restaurant. We were lead to taste their awaze tibbs, a plate of beef chunks with onions, tomatoes, hot red peppers, and spiced butter. And, yes, it was spicy! To help mellow out the awaze, we munched on the yemisir and yesega sambusa appetizer, a fried pastry stuffed with lentils and ground beef respectively. It may have been the late morning, but we definitely had to try an imported Ethiopian beer-–two bottles of St. George Beer please. Everything was rich and full of flavor. Perhaps the most pronounced taste in the whole meal was the bread traditionally eaten with just about every Ethiopian dish, injera.

If you’ve never had injera before the taste and feel can be quite surprising. Injera is a light and soft flatbread that has a unique, spongy texture. Generally cooked with teff flour, ingera is made from a sourdough yeast starter, so it has a sharp, tart bite to it. Like much African dining, Ethiopian food is meant to be eaten with your hands. The injera is your main eating utensil, used to scoop up the food on your plate.

Merkato Dining Room Duo DishesSt. George Beer Duo Dishes
Sambusas-Duo DishesAwaze tibbs-Duo Dishes

After lunch we ventured into the market, located just on the other side of the restaurant. We planned on making doro wat (sometimes spelled doro wot or doro wet), a chicken stew that is known as the Ethiopian national dish. Along with the doro wat, we hoped to make iab, a chilled, light cheese side dish that is regularly eaten as a finish to most Ethiopian meals. And well, it’s pretty safe to say no Ethiopian meal would be complete without injera. Whether we wanted to or not, injera had to be made to do justice to this cooking attempt.

The market had specialty spices galore! A whole wall was dedicated to a variety of ethnic dried herbs, ground spices, and raw grains and beans. In the same section you could purchase Merkato’s own injera bread packaged and piled knee-high. One customer whizzed by and did just that during our visit, very enthusiastically we might add! Other than this corner of spices, grains, and other snacks, there wasn’t much other food one could buy at the market. For the doro wat, we specifically needed the spiced butter niter kibbeh, along with berberé paste, which is a red pepper paste mixed with several other spices–cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, fenugreek, cloves, cumin, black pepper, turmeric, etc. They did have the berberé paste for purchase, but one of the staff members there told us we should use ground berberé for the doro wat. She suggested it would give it a stronger flavor than the paste. We, of course, submitted to her expertise and grabbed the ground berberé.

Berbere powder Duo DishesInjera Duo Dishes

Girum Duo Dishes

Just on the other side of the shop was a whole selection of African gifts and personal items. Varieties of soaps, toothpastes, candles, incenses, even a henna tattoo kit filled the small space to the brim. There were also exotic body oils, stylish hats and jewelry, as well as a whole wall of African CD’s and cassettes–-literally hundreds of music options.

Incense Duo DishesDecals Duo Dishes

Soap Duo Dishes

Whether you want to shop for a few African specialties or just enjoy an authentic Ethiopian dining experience, Merkato is a prime choice. We left the shop with the doro wat ingredients, ready to commence cooking our dish.

Amir also couldn’t pass up a couple African soaps. At five bucks for each item purchased, including the soaps, we left the shop with only a couple items and spent roughly $20. We now have, though, more spiced butter and berberé than we know what to do with. Our recipe only called for a fraction of what we bought. Oh well, excess ingredients could be a good reason to throw together another dish very soon.

Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant and Market
1036 1/2 Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 935-1775

Okay, words to the wise: follow directions! Unfortunately, we don’t heed to this golden rule too often in the kitchen. You would think one would follow directions precisely to the ‘t’ when it comes to baking and making bread, right? Nope, not us. For the injera, we easily scored the teff flour at Whole Foods, but because of our direction-following-negligence, the bread did not come out right in any way, shape, or form actually.

The key ingredient to the injera is the starter, which is just the flour and some water. The only other ingredients to make the bread are just more water, teff and some salt. You can make the starter from scratch or use a sourdough starter. Any recipes for an injera starter, or even a sourdough one, has the batter ferment for a minimum of 3 days. Some recipes even suggest up to a full week. This allows the dough to pull yeast from the air, and is something that is integral to making these type of breads.

Well, clearly we missed the most vital ingredient to making injera–time! For various reasons including our conflicting schedules, work, life in general, we thought a day of fermenting would be just fine. We were wrong! Our injera looked okay, but it didn’t have that sour, tart flavor we just experienced at Merkato. Plus, the injera at Merkato was light, soft, and felt like a flat sponge. Ours was not. Surely, any Ethiopian food connoisseur wouldn’t even consider what we made to be injera. Rather, it was a teff flour flatbread of some sort. Again, follow directions, kids!

We also tried out a “quick” injera recipe that incorporated club soda, but found it was just as sad as the other batch. We must stress, though, that the doro wat and iab turned out spectacular. We were licking the bowls clean. The chicken was moist, the iab was refreshing, and the whole meal was just so flavorful–minus the injera. Dora wat also sometimes has boiled egg in it. This is an optional ingredient that we omitted from our dish. And, Doro wat is traditionally very spicy. We like enjoy a little kick, but feel free to adjust the heat to your liking.

Dora Wat – Serves 4-6 (adapted by What’s 4 Eats)
2 pounds chicken legs quarters
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
1/4 cup niter kebbeh, or butter
2 tablespoons paprika
1/4 cup ground berberé
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup water or chicken stock
1/4 cup red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Marinate the chicken in the lemon and salt. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

2. Meanwhile, process onions, garlic, and ginger in a food processor to form a thick purée. If needed, add a tablespoon of water or stock to the mixture to help bind everything together.

3. In a large pan over medium-high heat, heat the niter kibbeh or butter. Mix in the paprika, berberé and cayenne and cook for about 3 minutes. Allow the flavors to seep into the oil but not burn.

4. Add the liquids, marinated chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer for 30-35 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked. Be sure to add more liquid if needed to maintain a saucy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Iab – yields 2 cups (adapted from What’s 4 Eats)
2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld together. Serve as a side dish or the final course to your Ethiopian meal.

Injera – yields 4-6 whole injera (adapted from Apple Pie, Patis, Pate)
1/4 cup teff starter from the previous batch, or if making for the first time check out a starter recipe here
1 3/4 cups water, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups teff flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

1. Place the starter in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in water until fully dissolved. Then add the teff flour and combine until smooth. The mixture should resemble a thin pancake batter.

2. Cover bowl and let stand at room temperature for 5-6 hours. Reserve 1/4 cup for the next batch of injera.

3. Using a paper towel, wipe oil over a large skillet, at least 10 inches wide, that has a tight-fitting lid. Then heat pan over medium-high heat.

4. Pour 1/2 to 3/4 cup of batter in the center of the pan, tilting and swirling it immediately to coat the pan evenly. Cook the batter for 1 minute, or until holes start to form on the surface. Cover with the lid and steam bread for an additional 3 minutes, or just until the edges pull away from the sides and the center of the bread is set. Do not flip the bread.

5. Transfer injera to a large plate or wire rack and cool completely. To store, cover tightly in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Click HERE for printable recipes.


22 thoughts on “The Duo’s Ethnic Exploration: Ethiopian

  1. As an Ethiopian-American raised on the food mentioned above I have to give you guys major props on making it at home 🙂 You guys are truly brave! Trust me, these days even most Ethiopians I know don’t make injera/wot at home because the process can be a pain the butt and it’s becoming so readily available from stores like the one you visited or from online vendors. Or they do without! Also, this post is from awhile back but I just wanted to add that all that extra berbere (or what I like to call “magic”) can be put to good use in your everyday cooking in place of chili powders like paprika. I like to use it in my version of tuna salad, with diced tomatoes, onions, black beans, maybe some cilantro if I have it, lemon juice and olive oil or as a rub on any meat, poultry or fish dish. Delicious things result when you get creative!

  2. Such a fantastic post, so many treats here. I have never been but have jotted down the address. Have to ask my Dad if he has been by, or we can go together.The dish sounds amazing. Again such a great post:) Love the thought of the spices, and soooo want some of that soap:) (I am a crazed soap collector)

  3. Ethiopian food is one of my favorites and I am AMAZED you guys attempted to make injera at home. I might have to follow your footstep (minus the burning.)

  4. I’ve never been in that market, but I’m glad to hear they have a lot of the things I’ve been looking for when the time comes for me to break into Ethiopian cuisine. Anyway, I really liked Nyala on the corner there.

  5. OMG you guys rock!!! I love Ethiopian but have never attempted it at home (it’s so cheep and delicious around here why bother LOL) but I really should try!!

  6. that’s so cool that you guys are so adventurous! it’s like tasting the world. ethiopian food is so interesting… can’t say that i’ve ever had it before, but if it’s presented to me, i will definitely give it a try!

  7. How can you go wrong with a meal that you eat with your hands! I love it. You should totally submit this to this month’s Regional Recipes hosted over at my blog! The region we are frequenting this month is Ethiopia!

  8. I love these little explorations. Keep them up. I’ve always been meaning to try Ethopian food but for some reason it keeps fallin off the list. This looks absolutely fantastic and I’m drooling over that market.

  9. I just ate at Nyala a couple weeks ago. Surprised I don’t get down there often since it’s just down the street. Ethopian food is good!

  10. I have heard so many great things about Ethiopian cuisine but have never tried it myself. Thsi post has left my mouth watering though so it won’t be long before I do.

  11. before we met my husband dated a girl from ethiopia. He was in love with the food (with her too but whatever)

    he took me out to some ethiopian food in Boston and it was killer. i loved all the new textures.

  12. Thanks for the tip about that store. I would love to try that red pepper paste! They used that in everything when I was in Turkey, but this sounds totally different with all those spices. I’ve been to Nyala on the same block there on Fairfax several times, and it is really, really good, and it’s charming inside.

  13. I’ve eaten at Messob Ethiopian restaurant, which might be right next door or very close to the one you dined at, haha. Isn’t Ethiopian food fun! Your creations look good, but next time you want to go out for Ethiopian, go in a large group and you can all share in one of those giant platters of food and eat with your hands. It’s so much fun 🙂 And messy!

  14. I participated in an Ethiopian challenge last year so tried to make several dishes. I didn’t attempt the injera so kudos to you both for rocking your culinary world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s