Sunday, October 19, 2008

Doro wat with ye'abesha gomen

I've really been craving Ethiopian food lately. Maybe I'm deficient in pulses, or just have a jones for hallucinogenically spicy food. The first time I tried Ethiopian food, I didn't really know much about it other than its reputation for being hot, that it leans heavily toward vegetarian proteins like lentils, and that it's eaten with the hands, using a spongy flatbread to scoop. This all proved to be true, but my preconceived notions were such gross understatement of this cuisine. Looking around the kitchen, I noticed that I'd depleted my stores of berberé, and I wanted to smell chiles, ginger, toasted onions and fenugreek in my Sunday kitchen.

The Ethiopian culinary identity is somewhat contradictory: it's fraught with an impoverished history (and still heavily associated with famine), yet known as the cradle of civilization; the original land of milk and honey. Doro wat is the National Dish of Ethiopia - a rich stew of chicken and hard boiled eggs, flavored with berberé and niter kibbeh (an eloquently-spiced, clarified compound butter with garlic and ginger), served with injera, a spongy flatbread made with a fermented teff flour dough.

I basically followed the Congo Cookbook's recipe for doro wat, and through a bit of browsing elsewhere on the interwebs found another good recipe for a vegetable side dish. Ye'abesha gomen (or gomen) consists of collard greens simmered with onions, peppers and ginger, and appears to have variations of different names all over Africa.

The injera was a problem. Problem #1: I couldn't find teff flour anywhere (I did end up finding it at a hippie store today, locally-grown, ironically). I should've trusted my hunch that similarly gluten-free buckwheat flour would've worked, but I kind of feel like there's no point in making generic flatbread, when I could just buy some fucking tortillas.

Problem #2: Even if I had gone for the buckwheat flour, injera is made of a fermented batter, like sourdough. I did not have the two weeks to get some dough fermenting on my counter, and evidently it's illegal to sell sourdough starter. I asked the New Seasons bakery, and when they denied to sell me any of their sourdough starter for "legal reasons", I asked if they could just give me some instead (they didn't think this was as funny as I did). I didn't feel it would be authentic enough (or taste the same at all) to use chemicals to achieve the spongy bubbles.

Problem #3: No one sells injera. The fuck? Why can I get ten types of artisanal boulé, pain au levain, focaccia or ciabatta, but I only get tortillas, pita or naan for non-Eurohonky unleavened bread alternative? Not even the hippies could help me out here. I didn't want to insult the nice people at the Ethiopian restaurant by coming in to only buy injera. I thought a brown rice tortilla would be a reasonable facsimile, but I was totally fucking wrong. Next time I'll drive across town to the Ethiopian bakery.

Next time you're thinking about a nice stew, or roasting a chicken, or crave a spicy curry to chase a wintry chill, why not mix it up a bit with Ethiopian food?

31 comments:

Ken Albala said...

Heather, You goddess! This is magnificent, but don't skimp on the njera. Buckwheat is a far cry - not even a grain. Millet is the closest relative. But you sure don't need sour dough starter, You've got the right wild yeast all over the place. I'll figure out the measurements and post a proper recipe on my blog, and send it to you once I get a hold of some teff flour. And I discuss it at length in the new book Pancake. Ken

Manggy said...

Oh, you *think* you're frustrated finding African ingredients... Wait'll you check it out here ;) There is no African cuisine to be found in these parts (maybe if I looked really hard, in never-before-visited spots...). I thought I'd give it a shot but the only African cookbook I found is one of those Time-Life cookbooks from the '80s at a used book shop. The gloomy '80s food photography didn't entice me at all. But searingly hot food does excite me-- I'm off to visit Congo Cookbook now :)

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

I just got turned onto good ethiopian food a few weeks ago and can't get enough of the stuff. Injera kind of reminds me of a very sour crepe... At first I thought it was levened with vinegar and baking soda. I wonder if you could make an injera facimile by adding vinegar... or is that just blasphemous?

Heather said...

Ken - Gah, I knew you'd call me out! Buckwheat is totally not a grass, I know, it's in the same genus as dock and sorrel (Rumex sp.) but I couldn't think of any other ready-to-buy gluten-free flours! Spelt? Regardless, I have some teff and will go through the long process of letting wild flora do their work. :)

Mark - I bet you'll find quite a few similarities in ingredients - peppers, tomatoes, manioch, yam, plantains, rice and chicken - all essential to African cooking.

Marc - It is totally like a sour crepe! It's not leavened, though, it's sour from the fermentation (wild yeast and bacteria, as Ken mentions above). Some people claim to get close to the texture with club soda, but you can't fake that flavor.

Emiline said...

I was wondering what Doro wat was when you mentioned it on Twitter.

I think you did a great job! I would like to learn more about Ethiopian food.

I like your new picture. Are you holding a mushroom?

MrOrph said...

Never had Ethiopian food of any kind! Is that sad.

This looks tasty. It seems you had to become a gumshoe just to track down the ingredients.

Peter M said...

First, love the new profile pic of you posing with the ONE chanterelle you found in the woods.


Secondly, I love you ability to jump right into a totally remote cuisine and bring to life for us.

There are a couple of Eithopian joints I could visit and I shall.

kittie said...

Love love love Ethiopian cuisine, and have absolutely no idea why I haven't cooked it yet.

Thanks for the reminder - hallucinogenically spicy is just what I fancy right now...

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I used to have quite an easy recipe for cheater injera - I'll try to dig it out for you. I love doro wat.

Heather said...

Emiline - It is a mushroom (a chanterelle)! One of the ones I picked on Saturday.

Donald - It wasn't that bad - I knew a local company made the teff, I just couldn't find a store to get any. :P

Peter the Greek - I always feel like Princess Peach of the Mushroom Kingdom when I go out for chanterelles. (Do try the Ethiopian food. It's so good.)

Kittie - It's like they took Indian food and kicked it up the proverbial notch. Love it.

Jen - Thank you! It seems like the cheater methods I saw were still three days in the making. I wanted to it the "real" way before I start fudging it, but I just don't have that kind of time.

dp said...

There was a recipe for this in one of the past issues of Savuer and it was great! Your post reminds me that I need to make it again. This time I'll try in my pressure cooker. Can you imagine? A whole meal done in less than half an hour!

Lo said...

Nice photo.
And awesome work on the Ethiopian food (one of my absolute favorite cuisines).

And I'm glad you found the teff. I just found some myself the other day (though, it wasn't locally grown, so I had to leave it be).

Now, about that sourdough starter... you want some??

toni said...

Heather, I love Ethiopian food, so why has it never occurred to me to make it???? DUH! Thanks for the inspiration -- I'm on it, Roz!

maybelle's mom said...

Wow, you have an ethiopian baker? I bought some teff ages ago and keep meaning to make injera--reading this make me want to jump off the couch, well, almost.

cookiecrumb said...

Oh, I would totally make the injera myself. I hope you give it a try next time.

peter said...

You can make it yourself just by leaving the teff flour and water out in a bowl somewhere warm overnight; if I can find the recipe I'll email it to you. Funny; I've been planning to make Ethiopian soon- we're totally psychic.

Choosy Beggar Tina said...

You have an Ethiopian bakery where you live? Man, I settled my wagon in the wrong village......

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Mmm... I had a similar craving ("I wanted to smell chiles, ginger, toasted onions and fenugreek in my Sunday kitchen."), except it was today, not Sunday and I went with a spicy Indian curry. But Doro wat sounds good too.

Are you going to do a sour dough start just in case you feel like injera again soon, or just saying "fuck it"?

glamah16 said...

Non EuroHonkey levan bread and even the Hippies couldn't help! I love your posts. Im sure you will get all you need in day to make the bread properly. Your always changing your profile pics and I always have to do a double take.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

This dish totally brings me back, Heather! I used to work the line at an Ethiopian restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin back in the early 1990s. I made doro wat every night for a year then.

Haven't eaten it since...

Sweet Charity said...

Damn, that sounds yummy. Too bad about the injera- strangly, I can buy it at my neighborhood Greek cornerstore, it's right beside the gulab jamun. Makes no sense, especially considering I live in Calgary which has exactly one Ethiopian restaurant... oh yeah, and coz it's a fucking Greek store.
When I needed starter and didn't have the time to do it proper, I used to buy those frozen unbaked loaves of sourdough and just rip off a chunk. Worked okay, though I have no idea if it'd work for this.

Brittany said...

When you mentioned Doro on twitter, I was completely dumbfounded. "what the fuck is doro?" I thought to myself.

Thank you for broadening my horizons.
I mean, damn. You're just awesome. Seriously.

Nikki said...

This is me giving you a high five. Right now. Oh no, I missed. Ok...NOW. Sorry about your teff misadventure. Yeah, just go to the bakery next time. The Asian grocery here sells it (because I requested it) and tortilla are a piss-poor substitute. I'm sorry you endured that pain. I make niter kibbeh to put in my succotash. I usually use whole butter so I can spread it on the bread and whatever else I'm eating with it. Have you ever fried chicken with it? I know you're afraid of frying. That was a silly question. But a little niter pan-fried veal is....awesome!!

We Are Never Full said...

you beat me to it... i'm impressed. but we'll do a ethiopian throwdown over the winter. we wanted to try injera but knew we'd prob. have to mail-order teff or find some hippie store as well (ha!) and i just didn't have the patience to wait the time you need to for fermentation. but damn i love it.

great job here... this dish is making me 'wat'. that was lame.

canarygirl said...

OMfG. YUM Heather! I haven't had Ethiopian food since I lived in Minneapolis. Awesome little place in Uptown. I haven't made any Ethiopian here because there is no teff flour to be found anywhere! Go figure, we're only a few miles from Africa.

cook eat FRET said...

i swear i commented on this post the other day and it is not there and now i've no idea what i had said but it was something about ethiopian food in nashville...

so, umm - hi...

SOUP OF THE DAY said...

Just curious - Is that Ethiopian restaurant in downtown Portland still there .... Um, I think it's called Red Sea? Memories from my drunk twenties.

Your chicken looks really good. :)

Jude said...

From Ethiopian to Japanese in 2 posts? I'm glad there's someone as, uh, eclectic, as I am with cooking.

Gotta check this out at the local Ethiopian joints. I can never get injera right.

Leigh said...

nice - you dont get many posts about african food apart from Morroccan these days. looks great.

Tee Jenkins said...

I just stumbled upon your blog this morning (1:16 am). I was looking to see if it was traditional to serve Doro Wat with rice. My 12 year old daughter is studying how Christmas is celebrated in Ethiopia and she decided that she wanted to prepare Doro Wat. She even wanted to make the injera, but she realized that it would be difficult to find the Teff flour. In a pinch, I called up a local Ethiopian Restaurant and explained what my daughter was doing and the manager agreed to sell us some injera. When I went to buy the injera I showed the manager the lapbook my daughter created and the book she found about Ethiopian food. I explained that she wanted to bring a dish for her learning partners to try. He was impressed, Even a patron was impressed and he paid for the injera and said, "Tell your daughter that a stranger gave her a gift." I type all this because I don't think you would have insulted any Ethiopian establishment by asking to buy just the injera. The fact that you took the time to prepare their traditional meal shows that you have an appreciation for their culture.-- Tee Jenkins, Silver Spring, MD