I love Bangkok. I really do. It's a wonderful place to live. But I'd be lying if I said I don't miss the multicultural aspect of the cities where I've lived before, like Washington and Paris. Oh sure, this is a cosmopolitan metropolis with people from all over the world. There's amazing local and international food from all over, and I really feel like a spoiled brat for saying anything even remotely negative. Well, almost. Some of the many cuisines I love, such as Moroccan/Algerian, Salvadoran, Senegalese, Turkish and West Indian, are missing here. Ditto for Ethiopian food, which was one of my favorite foods back when I lived in DC, which has the world's largest Ethiopian population outside of the country, with its own Little Addis and everything. I used to love going to restaurants like Dukem, Etete and Meskerem, filling up on this wonderfully spicy, vegetarian-friendly cuisine which is not so unlike our own Indian food.
So was I going to settle for a life without Ethiopian food? Of course not...which is why I decided that it was high time that I make it on my own! The typical Ethiopian meal consists of a sampler of several different dishes served atop injera, the traditional Ethiopian fermented bread made of teff flour. Though we actually brought back some teff during our last trip to the States, the traditional Ethiopian injera made from teff takes days of fermenting, which I didn't have the patience to do at this moment in time. Rather I made this quick, cheater's version of injera, made from a mix of white and wheat flours, baking powder and soda water. It didn't exactly taste like injera but was a decent substitute in my opinion, and Luis actually said he preferred this version because it's lighter and doesn't have that fermented, sour taste like the traditional stuff. I topped my injera with Ethiopian red lentils (known as mesir wat, for which I adapted this recipe from Sommer of a Spicy Perspective), a simple salad of tomato, jalapeno and onion tossed with vinegar and olive oil (such a fresh salad wonderfully offsets the other heavy, spicy dishes) and this yummy dish known as atakilt wat, which is a simple stew of carrot, potato and cabbage.
I adapted this recipe from Iwaruna.com, but decided to perk it up with some homemade berbere spice. Berbere is a traditional Ethiopian spice mixture, which is made by toasting and blending a wonderful array of spices including fenugreek, cardamom, cloves, chilies, paprika, cumin and many others. I had made a batch of berbere a couple of weeks ago using this recipe from Sala of Veggie Belly (one of my favorite food blogs!), and used it in the mesir wat that I also made a big batch of a couple of weeks ago and froze (I can now have Ethiopian lentils whenever I want!). Of course if you're lucky enough to live in a place with Ethiopian markets, you can buy readymade berbere (and injera, for that matter), but do try making your own if you have a spice or coffee grinder - it's wonderful and can be used with so many dishes! In a pinch, the Indian garam masala will do.
Try this atakilt wat as part of a complete Ethiopian platter. For another delicious Ethiopian vegetable dish, try my recipe for abesha gomen (Ethiopian collard greens) as well (OK, so this wasn't my very first time cooking Ethiopian!)...
ATAKILT WAT (ETHIOPIAN CARROT, POTATO & CABBAGE)
Serves 4 (as part of an Ethiopian platter with other dishes)
Adapted from Iwaruna.com
1 heaping tablespoon ghee, nitr qibe (Ethiopian clarified butter, if you can find it) or canola oil
1 large onion, chopped into large chunks
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon berbere or garam masala
Salt, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped or pureed tomatoes (from a can)
1 large carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1/4 cup water
2 cups finely chopped green cabbage
1. In a large saucepan, melt the ghee or nitr qibe or warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute 5-10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and saute a couple of minutes more.
2. Add the turmeric, berbere (or garam masala) and a bit of salt. Mix well. Add the tomatoes as well and stir.
3. Place the carrot and potatoes into the pan and mix well. Cook uncovered for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the wan.
4. Add the water, cabbage and additional salt to taste. Mix well, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the carrots and potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and serve.