Monday 30 November 2009

Ethiopian food and Bati beer

I ate in an Ethiopian restaurant on Saturday. A friend of mine is moving to Ethiopia soon to do volunteer work and wanted to know what the food is like.

Ethiopian cuisine seems to be based on curries served on injera, a type of bread that looks like a crêpe crossed with a crumpet. You tear off a strip of the bread, scoop up some sauce in it, and stuff it in your gob. It was about ten by the time we finally got to eat and I was so hungry this cutlery free way of eating put my fingers at real risk. Fortunately I managed to keep it together enough to just eat the restaurant food, and very good it was too.

For refreshment we first had Bati beer from the Kombolcha brewery in Ethiopia, mentioned in the beer book I'm currently reading. Described in the book as "crisp and refreshing" I found it quite malty for a lager and a pleasant drop. St George beer from the same brewery was more bog standard lager of the thin and sweetcorn flavoured variety.

We tried tej after after that, the Ethiopian version of mead. It was brought to the table in a unlabelled wine bottle and, staying with the wine style, I was poured a small amount to taste first. It was cloudy with a definite lactic taste amongst the honey but never having had tej before I've no idea if it's meant to taste like this or not. Being well brought up I truthfully said to the waitress "that's the best tej I've ever tasted", leaving off the fact it was also the worst tej I'd ever tasted, and it was glasses all round. Most of my mates weren't too taken with it but I found it went down well enough. That practice drinking lambic beers paid off I guess.

The Ethiopians also have a big thing about serving coffee ceremonially, and thought it was far too late for me to be doing that sort of thing some of my friends indulged. This involved having a pan of what I can only assume were roasted coffee beans wafted round the table (though to me it smelt of burnt toast) before coffee pots accompanied by burning frankincense were brought out and put on the table. It was certainly memorable but I might be suggesting people miss out on the coffee in future, incense smoke in my eyes isn't really my thing.

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