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Saturday, 20 April 2019 06:03 pm

LISTEN: Capital’s foodies embrace Ethiopia

Mar 16th, 2018 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Front Page Layout, Top Picture

Wellington is known for its eclectic and varied food scene. One of the latest additions to the mix is Ethiopian cuisine, brought to the streets by former refugees trying to represent their home culture the best way they know how.

Blue Nile on Allen St opened in December last year and joins Adulis on Tory Street, and Mother of Coffee on Riddiford Street in bringing Ethiopian cuisine to Wellingtonians.

The food is simple and wholesome. The “backbone” of the dish is a fermented sourdough flatbread called injera, on top of which sits different flavoured wat, or stew. The injera is porous and sticky, and holds the weight of the stew while soaking up the sauce. To eat, one tears off a sliver of injera and uses it as cutlery to scoop up stew.

The managers of the Blue Nile, Fathia Sadd and Almaz Nrea say Ethiopian cuisine is about becoming closer as friends or family. They serve the food on large platters for sharing.

“The whole family together, shares. Why? It makes them love each other, it’s a promise to stay a family,” Fathia says.

Binyam Semere is the manager of Adulis on Tory St. He says unlike in Western cultures, eating from your own plate is unheard of. While they do accommodate for diners unused to sharing or eating with their hands, part of dining Ethiopian is about learning the culture.

“For us, it doesn’t give fairness if you eat from your own plate,” he says.

As a sign of respect, Ethiopians practice gursha, feeding each other, starting with the father feeding his wife and children or the younger family members feeding the elders.

“We’re eating together right? So it doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a girl, we can do this for each other.”

Ethiopian cuisine is also easily made at home now, thanks to Yeshi Taye’s Mamia’s Sauce which she sells at Moore Wilsons and Commonsense Organics, to name a few.

Made with several basic ingredients like red onion, garlic, ginger and chilli, Yeshi has replicated her own mother’s wat sauce for Wellingtonians to cook at home.

It’s a popular basic sauce used all across Ethiopia and will be familiar to anyone from all across the country. She says when a person gets to know another cultures food they may even feel closer to those people without knowing them.

“You kinda say oh, it’s not just a Vietnamese person [for example], I know them because I like their food, for me there is that respect,” Yeshi says.

In Newtown, residents get the full Ethiopian experience with wat platters and freshly brewed Ethiopian coffee at Joel Teka’s Mother of Coffee.

Joel says Ethiopians don’t like to eat alone, which makes food an important social activity.

“It brings friends together, it’s a community and cultural and social thing.”



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