My love affair with Ethiopian cuisine started back in my days as a university student in Tampa, Florida. I was a vegetarian at the time and a friend recommended that I try an Ethipian place called Ibex.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect there and was overjoyed to know that mt taste buds were blown away. The whole experience of touching my food, to sharing the plate with the table, and the amazing spices seared itself into my memory. I have never forgotten those days of scooping up some of the delicious stews with the injera bread. A soft pancake like bread made of the smallest yet mighty super grain teff.
My taste buds and I continued to partake in the Ethiopian food when we moved out to the west coast and settled in the bay area.
Between North Oakland and Berkeley there must have been a dozen Ethiopian restaurants along Shattuck Avenue. And no joke we tried them all, but we settled on a tiny one that usually had no customers, and awful service, but the food was stratospheric in quality. Then we fast forward to two weeks ago.
Something happened while we gathered for my brothers wedding in Huntsville, Alabama, I met one of the bridesmaids who was Ethiopian. After we had finished having a huge feast of Chinese food we were talking about how I have attempted to make Ethiopian food, but haven’t really been successful at it yet. Our conversation, even though I was stuffed, made me crave Ethiopian food like I never had before. Actually, we both started to crave the food.
This craving continued once I got back on a plane and back to Japan. Spongy sour injera bread bounced around in my head, but since it was Passover I knew that I had to wait to be able to indulge in the fermented injera bread. It was one of those cravings that eventually had to be satisfied.
So once Passover finished, the wife and I headed over to Queen Sheeba in Naka Meguro. The rain kept on coming down on our way over to the restaurant, and compared to the beautiful spring weather the day before it was chilly.
As soon as we entered those Ethiopian aromas filled our hearts. I ordered a glass of tej. A honey mead wine that is seasoned with a hard to find Ethiopian spice called Gesho. The cloudy elixir was sweet and silky on my tongue. I had a feeling that the tej was homemade and the friendly waitress confirmed that they make the tej themselves.
The first course was skewered goat roasted over charcoals. The cubes of meat were succulent and sweetly fragrant. This was then followed by the main course served up family style on a large round plate with dabs of the stew beautifully arranged.
The foods spices went straight to my head and my heart filled with joy. To tear off a piece of injera bread with spicy red lentils, and stewed spinach.
My soul was as satisfied as my stomach with my fill of spicy lentil in this home style cooking. I thank Rahel so much for getting me thinking, if not obsessing, about the wonderful cuisine of Ethiopia.
My new challenge is to try to cook up some of these dishes for myself. I love being able to cook that which I cannot eat so easily. And, if I can’t I know at least I will always be welcomes at Queen Sheeba.