My appetite was wet after trying Eritrean food, that was my first time trying any cuisine from Africa and I wanted to try more. The good thing is that in Stockholm, African food is not rare. In fact some 1 % of the Swedish population is from Africa.
African migration to Sweden began in the 17th century (I was surprised too!) with individuals brought over to serve the royal household. But African migration was a relative rarity until the second half of the 1900s with more arriving as a consequence of civil wars. Africans of Ethiopian origin make the second largest group (after Somalis who number around 30,000), at around 13,000 across the nation. Individuals of Ethiopian origin have also been adopted by Swedish families, including perhaps one of the most famous Swedish chefs – Marcus Sameulsson, currently based in New York.
But we’re talking about Ethiopian food in Stockholm. It was a public holiday weekend and we weren’t too sure if the restaurant would be open. As luck would have it, we picked one of those restaurants that is open practically every day. Located on the island of Sodermalm, a few blocks from Reggev Humus and Meatballs for the People is Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant.
We were the only people not of African descent when we walked in. But the staff seemed to have welcomed enough non-Africans not to be surprised. They didn’t know that we were not noobs… well I was, she wasn’t, I ate what she recommended.
The interior of the restaurant was decorated with beautiful art, but this time around art that was clearly Ethiopian. I don’t know if I’m describing it right but the strokes were thinner and more similar to a cross between European and Arabian art forms than it was Southern and Western African.
It’s not really surprising, when you think about it. Ethiopia has had links with the middle east and Eastern Africa for ages and its trade and culture has intermingled with this place.
Ethiopia has a strong Christian tradition stretching back to the early days of Christianity (before it even spread to the West, making this church much much older than the conception of Christianity being a Caucasian religion). It also is the only country in Africa not to have been colonised.
Because it borders Eritrea (Ethiopia being older) the food from both sides is very similar. We had injera as a base and a good combination of foods flavoured with berebere spice.
I was busy tucking into my injera and shiro (not pictured), when she stopped and looked at the table next to us. A group of four ethnic swedes had arrived for a meal and ordered four separate plates of food. “No, that’s not the way to enjoy a communal meal… and not with utensils,” her eyes despaired as she looked back at me.
Ethiopian cuisine is a communal experience food is always served to be shared off a large platter. Because dining is a communal experience. In fact feeding someone food, a practice known as gursha (tearing injera off, picking the food and feeding someone) is a sign of respect and love and injera is your carbohydrate and utensil. But we learn new things everyday.
I tore a piece of injera and scooped up some meat offering it to her, at least we’re doing it right, I smiled.
ON THE MAP