I can’t remember the last time that I tried an ethnic food for the first time. I have not tried all the foods of the world, but being the foodie that I am, I have probably tried a tad more than the average American. Certain foods have become embedded into a part of my culinary repertoire. Others, I try once or twice and decide it’s not for me, but at least I have tried it once.
Each time my palate enters unfamiliar grounds, there is some apprehension that is paled by curiosity. When picking a place to have ethnic cuisine, I try to make sure that I don’t have a horrible first time experience. Or else, it’s likely to ruin all foods from that country, for life. Well okay, maybe not for life…but for a good while until I am over being traumatized by the unmemorable experience. On a scale of 1-10, I’d say my foodie adventurousness sums up to about 7 or 8. I am curious to explore and try new things. But I still draw the line somehwere when it comes to trying anything and everything. I would never try anything in the likes of bosintang (dog stew), rat cuisine, balut, am still hesitant to try chicken feet. The last daring thing I tried that I never thought I would, was bbundaegi (yes, I actually gave it a try since that post).
I don’t remember what had suddenly made me decide to try Ethiopian food last week. I think that all these years, even though I was curious about it, I was hesitant to try it mostly because I HATE eating with my hands. Like, I would eat a bag of chips with chopsticks if I could (if I had them conveniently around. And no, surprisingly, I don’t carry a pair in my purse). Okay, sometimes there is little else alternative but to eat with hands. I can’t eat crawfish with chopsticks. There is no other way to eat BBQ ribs other than with getting in there and getting your hands messy. I don’t slice and fork my bread and butter as I would a steak. I sacrifice my displeasure for my indulgences. But when I do, I just make sure I have quick access for hand washing right after.
As if eating with my hands wasn’t unpleasant enough, eating an unfamiliar food with my hands was totally going out of my foodie comfort zone even more. But what the heck….curiosity got the best of me that day, so I decided to suck it up and take one for the team.
I resorted to Yelp the nearest Ethiopian place with the better reviews. I mean, I have learned to take Yelp reviews with a grain of salt. After Yelping for some years and having gone through instances where Yelp has failed me, I think I have developed a sense of how to Yelp more selectively. It brought me to Tana Ethiopian Restaurant.
The location is in some random strip mall on a street that I have passed through a gajillion times but have probably never really noticed. Walking in, the place was empty. Being empty around the peak of dinnertime can be a bad sign. It made me a bit more nervous.
I was immediately welcomed with unfamiliar aromas that I was about to discover and grow to either like or hate.
We were greeted by a sweet middle-aged woman in sunglasses. I picked a table right next to the air cooler. The woman was quick to move us to a “much cooler” room. She said that it was too hot in the outer room and that it would make us “perspire” like her…lol not the most pleasant word to hear from the person serving us food. This automatically made me have images of the woman perspiring into our food.
I tried to get the image out of my mind. I was hungry. I was ready to enjoy a new experience. I did my best to block it out.
After browsing through the menu, I was not really sure what I wanted.
This is the back page of the menu and I was trying to decide which dish to order for the protein.
The woman was helpful in thoroughly explaining any questions we had about a dish. I still wasn’t sure what to decide on. But I was getting hungrier and starting to enter a “just order whatever” mode.We ended up getting the #8, Awaze Tibs (“spiced cubes of lean beef marinated in awaze (spicy sauce), honey wine, garlic, and ginger”).
The woman recommended the Vegetarian Special, an array of assorted vegetarian wots.
After ordering, I headed straight to the restroom to wash my hands. I immediately noticed on the sink handle, somewhat dried up traces of reddish, oily crap. It was like, a precursor of the sloppy mess fest that was about to come.
And I couldn’t help myself….I asked for utensils lol. Baby steps! I am pretty sure that I didn’t even eat the “proper” way either. Oh well.
When the food arrived, I eagerly nipped at the injera that I had been so curious about. It actually tasted a lot like I imagined, -a spongy texture with a sour kick. I guess injera is typically sponged through the wots when eating. Being Korean and having grown up eating Korean food, it reminded me of eating ssam. And I kind of ate in a ssam eating manner. This is how some Koreans eat ssam (click on link) when in a hurry, I guess lol. Not really, but I thought it was a funny clip. Normally, items are picked up with a chopstick and placed on the wrap (of choice), enclosed, then eaten…..not everything shoved in the mouth together like the guys in the video clip. But that might be a fun way to eat both ssam and injera lol.
My oinking partner, SS, jokingly referred to this wot (near 12 o’clock) as ssamjang (“Korean spicy dipping sauce)
and this (9 o’clock) one as dwenjang (soy bean paste).
My favorites were the gomen (spinach) and the dwenjang look-alike.
I did not gursha. The act of gursha also reminded me of ssam eating. Some Koreans like to assemble a ssam and feed it to someone as a form of affection.
When I shared pictures of my meal, some people asked if it was a pancake. My aunt in Korea asked if it was bindaedduk (Korean pancake). I guess the injera does kind of resemble a pancake.
The portion seemed huge. We were stuffed after finishing about half of the meal. But I did not take any leftovers to go since I knew I was not going to eat it and it’d just go to waste anyway.
Overall, it was an interesting experience. The woman in sunglasses made the experience more comfortable, minus her perspiring comment. But next time, I am bringing chopsticks lol.