Footscray is undiscovered territory for me. Having spent the first 18 years of my life on the Mornington Peninsula, and now living in the Bayside suburbs, I have rarely ventured over to the other side of the city.
My only experience was in my third year of University. As part of my course we gained a certificate in basic cooking skills from Victoria University. Here I learnt how to julienne my vegetables, to create a bouquet garni and to perfectly poach an egg (wait, I’m still working on that one…) I also remember my friends fashioning animals out of vegetables (possibly a duck?), but I don’t think that was actually part of the coursework. No I’m quite sure it wasn’t…
This was my first introduction to Footscray, and sadly my eating experience was limited to the hot jam doughnut van parked next to the train station.
A couple of years later, as I became more and more interested in experiencing different cuisines, I identified Footscray as a suburb I simply had to get to know. Ethiopean food was high on my wish list, but I was also aware that there were loads of places to get fantastic Vietnamese food. Where to start?? Luckily, I had a little help to point me in the right direction. Deb, from Bear Head Soup, was my saving grace.
I first met Deb at a Blogger’s Picnic, and could tell she was utterly passionate about her food. When I commented on her blog that I was yet to (but very keen to) try African cuisine, she kindly offered to dine with me at one of her local restaurants.
We met one Thursday night at Cafe Lalibela, an Ethiopian restaurant in Footscray. Naturally I brought Ben along, as he was also very keen to try this food.
We ordered a Castle beer each and got to chatting. This Ethiopian beer was actually very nice, with a mild flavour and no bitterness (just how I like my beer).
We ordered four dishes to share: Fual, Doro Wot, Lamb Tibs (or perhaps it was Kulwha, I can’t recall!) and Shiro.
The dishes are all served on injera, Ehtiopian bread, and you eat with your right hand. This bread is quite thin and airy, and looks like a big, very flat crumpet. It is similar to the bread I ate in Morocco, yet injera has a sour taste to it. This is due to the fermentation process in making the bread. It really is very delicious. You simply tear a piece of injera and use it pick up some of the stew-like dish. Pop it in your mouth and voila, deliciousness!
The broad beans in the Fual were quite yummy, although not overly big on flavour. It was topped with fetta, which I found surprising.
We all agreed that the Doro Wot was a little dry. Although I did appreciate the spice mixture used. After watching SBS Food Safari on African cuisine, I have been very interested in berbere– a spice mix used immensely in Ethiopian cooking. It was so lovely to taste this delicious spice at last (here is a recipe I have found – it looks like an effort, but it will be well worth it, I am sure!)
The lamb in the Tibs (or Kulwha) was surprisingly tender (although not melt-in-your-mouth, by any means) and I enjoyed the more subtle flavours in this dish.
Although my favourite dish was the Shiro. I really enjoyed this full, earthy flavour, which I assume comes from the ground pea flour. It was perfectly sloppy too – which is good for mopping up with injera.
Even though I wasn’t blown away by many of the dishes, I really enjoyed my first experience of Ethiopian food. I am excited to experiment in the kitchen myself, to become more familiar with Ethiopian cooking. I just love the way that meals are served – the injera plays such a fundamental role in the meal both practically and nutritionally, and it is a fabulous vehicle for flavour.
I had a lovely time with Deb, she truly is wonderful company. Naturally the conversation revolved around food, where we have eaten and where we wish to eat next…