I had my first taste of Northeastern African food a few months ago (here and here) and had been searching for new Ethiopian places to try since then. It helps that I am in Stockholm, where there is a large Ethiopian disapora. A few other Singaporeans were in town and I decided to introduce them to a cuisine that you could not get in Singapore (you can get high quality food from every continent in Singapore except African food, and not even average one at that).
Dinner this time was on the island of Kungsholmen, a highly rated Ethiopian restaurant called Lalibela.
Before that a small detour on Ethiopia and Lalibela.
Lailbela is a town in Amhara Ethiopia, famous for its rock-cut churches belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
St George’s Church in Lalibella, a Rock-hewn Church (Source)
Ethiopia was one of the first nations to adopt Christianity, even before the Romans did, and Lalibela is one of the msot important cities in Christian list, in fact the layout of the town is widely accepted among locals to be a representation of Jerusalem. This was done by King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela from the 12-13th cenury (today revered as a saint) after the conquering of Jerusalem by the Saladin.
So what makes Ethiopian culture interesting? The most recent two hundred years of human history have been mainly written by colonisation and hence the cross-fertilisation of culture, cuisine and customs between indigenous peoples and the colonial nation – it’s why Vietnamese Banh Mi uses a French Baguette, Egg Tarts in Macau are the same as Pastel de nata in Portugal, Singapore/Brunei and Malaysia have a Omelette sandwich called Roti John and Indonesian semur is a stew dish after the dutch word smoor. But there are some countries that were never colonised, or colonised for so short a time that the cross fertilisation never really took place. Thailand is the notable exception in Asia and Ethiopian (as well as Liberia) are the notable African exceptions. That also means that the food in Ethiopia (and the Horn of Africa) is very unique.
So what about the food in Lalibela?
Perhaps as a nature of the district, the place also has a number of high hanging chandeliers to look classy hip (not pictured). The restuarant was not too full when we visited, and unlike Gojo or Jebena did not seem to have as large a Caucasian clientle. Perhaps it was the time of the day, although it wa already 7.30pm by the time we arrived…
The waitress wore a confused look on her face when we walked in, “you know what injera is right? You know how to order?” I reckon tourist, let alone Asian faced ones rarely make their way here. We ordered a large plate to share with a mixture of wat (stews) on a bed of injera.
Like the other meals, it was a filling one, although I liked the injera bread from Gojo much more. The wats here was overall slightly sweeter than what the other two restaurants served up, although the price was similar. Perhaps its a regional difference, assuming the name of the restaurants are anything to go by, Gojo is located in the southern part of Ethiopia while Lalibela is located in the north.
Then there was the coffee, served up in a coffee pot called the Jebena.
Ethiopia is the home of coffee arabica, the coffee that many people are crazy for, and Ethiopians obviously have a special way of preparing their coffee (but that is a different story for a different time at a different place).
Coffee is usually drunk at the end of a meal, the bitter taste presumably used to cleanse the palate after a heavy meal.
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