My Foray into Footscray

March 28, 2011

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…

Heidi xo
  • Blithely Unaware March 28, 2011 at 10:42 am

    My mum used to work for Oxfam when I was a little, little kid. She was there when the first refugees started coming to Australia from Somalia and Ethiopia. One day she organized some sort of African get together for the refugees and workers at Oxfam. I clearly remember watching them make injera and LOVING the spongy bread. It's been a long time since I've had injera, I wonder if I'd still love it.


  • Brooke March 28, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I love those jam donuts near the station! As if I wasn't hungry enough after reading your blog now I am craving them hehe.


  • Michelle Chin March 28, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Did you use instagram for the pictures?

  • Heidi March 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Blithely Unaware – oh wow, what an amazing, special memory!! Your mum sounds like an incredible women.

    Brooke – haha, I know, me too! I scored a doughnut maker from my nana recently – you cook them like a toasted sandwich, so they're healthier. I should whip it out.

    Michelle – yes, I did! I have been so busy lately that I keep forgetting and leaving my camera at home. I do love instagram though for a quick and easy way to pretty-fy your pics 😉

    Heidi xo

  • Hannah March 28, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    There's a secret tiny part of me that wants to train to be a nutritionist. You might get an email from me sometime in the next five years about the course you undertook… 😛

  • Lisa (bakebikeblog) March 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Hmmm….I dont think I have ever been to Footscray! Driven past – yes….but actually stopped there….no!?

  • April @ My Food Trail March 28, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    I'm also an Eastsider, hardly venturing out to the West! Thanks for sharing the food you had, I've never seen Ethiopian food before!

  • Vicki March 28, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    You should also try The Abyssinian in Kensington for really good Ethiopian food.

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella March 28, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    I'm loving the instagram effect. I really want to play with it for some of my pics! 😀

  • Carly Findlay March 28, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    I love African food – much different to my Mum's South African specialties.

    You should try the Abyssinian in Flemington – amazing. Come over to my side of town and we can go together.

  • The InTolerant Chef March 28, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    I love trying new cuisines. It's nice having someone talk you through it though if it's very different to what you're used too.

  • denitamudge2014 March 28, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    I love The Abysinnian! That was my first taste into Ehtiopian food and immediately fell in love. And the injera bread they serve it on. I've made it before and its so fun and spongey!

    Cafe Lalibela sounds amazing! Let's go there please xx

  • Kath (My Funny Little Life) March 28, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Different cuisines have always been fascinating to me, and while I love Asian a lot and know it quite well, I'm not used to African so far, and I've never eaten Ethiopian. Looks exciting! 😀

    I'd love to know how to poach eggs. This is a project I need to tackle soon!

  • Heidi March 29, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Hannah – oh yay, you totally should do my course! You may have been joking but seriously you'd rock at it 😉

    Lisa – you should visit when you're next down! I want to go to the markets there and load up on Vietnamese herbs!

    April – you're welcome, I hope you try it soon!

    Vicki – ooh great thanks for the recommendation!

    Lorraine – I love it, it's great when you're at a pinch with yummy food to photograph. & it helps when the lighting isn't so great.

    Carly – thank you, that would be fab! I'll email you 😉

    InTolerant Chef – it was great! I didn't have to google at the table 🙂

    de – so much love for The Abyssinian! I can't wait to go there. & we will definitely hit up footscray for yummy food!! You should teach me how to make injera!

    Kath – there are a few ways you can do it, but I tend to just go for soft boiled eggs instead. They're easier and cuter 😉

    Heidi xo

  • Anna Johnston March 29, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    I've always been interested in Nutrition, and have even looked at doing the course, however, my bro is keen to do it, so I might get some other qualies and learn from him. 🙂
    I love trying new cuisine, and to be honest Ive never tried Ethiopian, looks fantastic, it wasnt until just recently on a drunken taxi ride home and a huge D&M; with the cabbie who was ethiopian I learned that they don't just eat lentils. I know… Im silly. 🙂
    Like the pics, they are very cool. Great review, Im so keen to try now.

  • deb March 29, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    It was great to meet-up, looking forward to our next food foray! I keep hearing about the Abyssinian too but have never been, will have to add that to my list too!

  • Heidi March 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Anna – haha how fabulous, I'm glad you gained more interest in this cuisine following a late night D&M; with a cabbie! Also happy to fuel your interest further. & how cool that your bro is looking at nutrition!

    Deb – yes, The Abyssinian is getting good reviews it seems! I am really looking forward to our next meet-up. Bring on the Peking Duck! 🙂

    Heidi xo

  • Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets April 1, 2011 at 1:01 am

    Sorry not everything was great. I recommend trying out another place maybe? I'm mostly vegetarian and thus can only speak to the veg dishes, but I love almost all the Ethiopian foods I've tried.