Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ethiopia: Vegetable Alecha, Injera, and Iab

Welcome to our first meal!

The structure of our blog is as such: a description of the meal itself; recipes, and cultural information regarding the country in question. Scroll down if you're only seeking one of the latter two items.

For our first meal, we ate a semi-traditional Ethiopian dish, which featured alecha, injera, and iab. Alecha is a vegetable dish which is similar to a stew. Injera is a spongy flatbread, typically made from tef flour, which was unavailable. Finally, we had iab (or something that approximated it) which is a cheese similar to feta. It is spiced and acidic.

The meal on our big tray
The meal itself was pretty tasty. I was surprised by the variety of flavors. While I was not blown away, I thought that it was a delicious and hearty meal. "I'm tasting not just spiciness, but a sweetness to it. It's really delicious," said my mother upon eating the alecha. "The lemon and parsley of the - what is it? - the iab gives it a refreshing, palette-cleansing [taste]," she added.

Injera, arguably the center of the meal, is a spongy yeast-leavened flatbread. It is actually similar to pancakes in their preparation and texture.

The first finished injera
Injera had a yeasty flavor, tasting almost sour. It's thicker than crêpes, which surprised my mother. I was mostly surprised by their stickiness.

The vegetable alecha, on the other hand, was stew-like.
So flavorful-looking, eh?

It had spices, yet was more flavorful than spicy. There were large chunks of potatoes, which we probably should have chopped smaller. Moreover, we under-cooked it. (My guess is that, because we used a wok, it needed more time than originally prescribed.)

Finally, the iab - or in this case, an approximation thereof - is a cheese-like dish that had lemon and parsley in it.


It was the sweetest dish, and was almost dessert-like. It was also my favorite on the injera.

To eat Ethiopian food, you're supposed to take many injera, lay them on a tray, and plop wat (meat stew of some sort), alecha, and/or iab in front of every person. Then, you rip some injera off with your hands, roll the food like this..

...or this...

...and attempt to eat it. Evidently, it is difficult. That second one barely made it to my mouth intact. In addition, a goorsha may be done, which is when you give your food-thing to a friend. A goorsha is an act of friendship.

We used this injera recipe, this vegetable alecha recipe, and, finally, this iab recipe.

We did make a few changes, however:
  • We doubled all of the spices in the alecha recipe. This was a good choice.
  • We didn't have any fenugreek seeds for the alecha, but we read that you can substitute mustard for them (like the condiment), so we did.
Other than that we basically followed the recipes.

Here are the stages of creating injera:
The batter, before fermentation

It's fermenting!

Cooking it like pancakes (without flipping)

The finished product

And here's us cooking the alecha:
Chopped veggies
Chopping the potato

I was the one that peeled that onion...

Spice mixture

Sautéed onions in the spices

Too much food, too little wok

We have only the end picture for the iab, which we've already shown you.

Overall, our first dish was a success.

If you want some brief cultural information regarding Ethiopia, you're free to read on. If else, leave a comment, spread the word, and try out the food!

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country in North-Eastern Africa, close to the Middle East.
From TUBS on the Wikimedia Commons
Its most well-known leader, Haile Selassie I, fought Fascist Italy's imperialistic aims in Ethiopia unsuccessfully. After World War II, he returned to Ethiopia. Interestingly, he is regarded as the return of the messiah by Rastafarians, some of whom don't believe that he died.

Halie Selassie I was deposed in a Soviet-backed coup, and after the USSR collapsed Ethiopia had its first multiparty elections.

Ethiopia's national language is Amharic, a Semitic language (i.e., related to Hebrew and Arabic), written in the Ethiopic or Ge'ez script. That said, languages are recognized regionally among different ethnic identities.

Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic state, with over 80 ethnic identities. Furthermore, Ethiopia has multiple religions, primarily the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, with large Muslim minorities.

Well, I hope you've liked our  first post. If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to post a comment or send an email. Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

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