After some of the other places that I've lived, I feel pretty lucky that we are now in a super cosmopolitan city such as Bangkok, where you can find just about everything that your heart may desire. Bikram yoga? Check. Peruvian-Japanese fusion cuisine? Check. Flax seeds and quinoa at the supermarket down the street? Check. Well...just about everything that is except Ethiopian food. Bangkok's one and only Ethiopian restaurant apparently closed some years ago, and I occasionally get a big Ethiopian food craving, having enjoyed it regularly during the years that I lived in Washington DC, which has the world's largest Ethiopian population outside of the country itself. We're currently visiting my parents and brother in Atlanta and spent a few days in DC just before, where you can bet that a good Ethiopian meal was on our to do list. Dukem, at 12th & U Streets NW, was our restaurant of choice...and it was just as good as ever!
There's no shortage of collard greens here in the U.S. South and nor in Bangkok luckily enough! Today, my family and I went to check out the famous Dekalb Farmers Market in nearby Decatur, which is an enormous indoor market with every kind of produce you can imagine as well as an amazing collection of spices, dried goods, sauces and condiments, meat, seafood, cheeses, breads, wine and beer...a true foodie paradise! We picked up some collard greens, and I decided that even if we didn't have any injera, I should still make some of the Ethiopian collard greens known in Amharic as abesha gomen. Cooked up with onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeno, these greens are super easy to make and of course very healthy, being packed with vitamin C and fiber. Traditionally, the onion and other ingredients are sauteed in an Ethiopian clarified butter called nit'ir qibe, for which I substituted Indian clarified butter or ghee (regular butter would be fine as well). The Ethiopian spice mixture called berbere seasons many Ethiopian dishes but not abesha gomen, however I decided to add a little garam masala to make things a little more interesting (surprise, suprise!).
Pick up some injera at your local Ethiopian restaurant or market (if you're lucky enough to live near one) and make some of these greens along with some mesir wat (try this excellent recipe from Sommer of A Spicy Perspective) and you have an excellent vegetarian meal...one that will transport you to one of the world's most fascinating countries and most ancient cultures, with an underestimated but awesome cuisine that is among the world's best.
ABESHA GOMEN (ETHIOPIAN COLLARD GREENS)
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
2 big bunches collard greens, washed and roughly chopped (about 12 cups)
Pinch of baking soda
4 teaspoons nit'ir qibe, ghee or butter
1 large red onion, chopped (I went for large chunks, feel free to chop smaller if you prefer)
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 jalapeno chile, chopped (keep the seeds in)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 - 1/2 cup water
Additional jalapeno slices, for garnish
1. In a large pot, place the collard greens with just enough water to cover them, along with a pinch of baking soda (this will help to keep them green).
2. Bring the greens to a boil and cook until they are tender but still have a bite, which will probably take about 15 minutes.
3. Drain the greens and put them in a large bowl covered with ice water to stop the cooking process.
4. In a large saucepan, heat the nit'ir qibe, ghee or butter over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and salt to taste and saute until the onions are just beginning to turn translucent. At this point, add the ginger paste and the jalapeno and stir well.
5. Add the collard greens a little at a time along with the garam masala and 1/4 - 1/2 cup water to aid in the cooking process.
6. Cover and cook over medium heat until the greens are thoroughly cooked, about 10 minutes. Season with additional salt if necessary and serve garnished with additional jalapeno slices.