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Saturday, September 14, 2013

eating vegan in... ethiopia

Women selling fruit in Harar
     Ethiopia must be one of the easiest places in the world to be a vegan, let alone a vegetarian. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church instills 7 "fasting" periods, during which most religious folks refrain from eating any animal products except for fish. Accordingly, many "fasting" dishes are available throughout the year, especially over the many fasting periods. These include shiro, a fiery lunchtime dish made of chickpea flour and berbere spice; tegabino, a thicker, blander version of shiro; ful, the typical Ethiopian breakfast dish made of pureed broad/fava/kidney beans, the "special" version of which usually includes avocado [and eggs] - this one is often served with a bun either alongside or instead of injera; vegetable firfir, which consists of pieces of injera pieces cooked in a tangy tomato sauce; and many others. If you decide that you're not a big fan of injera, the fermented teff grain pancake that all of the above dishes are served on, there are also a whole lot of spaghetti dishes around!
Woman selling injera at a local market
     Ethiopian food (the stuff served on injera, not the italian pasta!) is eaten without the help of cutlery, with your right hand specifically. A piece of injera (either the one on which the sauces are or one of the rolls served with it) is broken off and, using all five fingers, the sauce is picked up using the pancake. A few people are generally seen sharing one dish, often ordering more side sauces to go with it if it isn't enough.
     Apart from injera and spaghetti, there's a whole ton of wonderfully delicious fruits in the country. During our stay in the month of August, we encountered mass amounts of bananas, green oranges, sugarcane, papayas, avocados, and mangoes, as well as some other exotic fruit I wouldn't be able to identify without the help of a local. The markets are generally abundant in various grains and colourful produce (whatever is in season and/or accessible in the area), and there are many roadside fruit-sellers standing around on the popular highways. Not to mention, there's a whole lotta grilled corn going on on the streets, and, when in Addis, don't miss out on one of the many vegan buffets offered, particularly the daily one at Taitu Hotel.
     Read on for Ethiopian goods in Vancouver, BC...
Street market in Harar
 Woman selling hot chilies
Jinka: Saturday market
Bambolinos for your sweet tooth!
     After eating injera for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past 3 weeks, coming back home to western food and saying goodbye to Ethiopian cuisine has been bittersweet. Thankfully, I've food some Ethiopian restaurants in Vancouver that I'm systematically trying out to satisfy my cravings. I'll be posting back with opinions on joints every so often, but here's what I've got so far:
     
     Fassil Restaurant, 5-736 E Broadway: Friendly, family-run restaurant offering 100% gluten-free upon pre-ordering, $1.50.

     Gojo Little African Cafe, 2838 Commercial Dr.: The best shiro I've had in Vancouver so far! Monday and Tuesday vegetable combo for $7.99. No need to pre-order for gluten-free injera (which looks and tastes like it's been made with buckwheat as well as teff), $1.50 surcharge. Serves indefinite amounts of delicious cooled lemon water. Definitely an underrated little place.

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