Our research suggests that to sample the cuisine in its complete glory, we have to go all out.
I'm in my Friday best, which by the way translates to a breezy dress, flat slippers, and no-kohl eyes. A bearable warm breeze is blowing; it's one of those days when the sun has decided to co-operate. From where I am sitting, I can see a handful of men, women, and children enjoying the beach. Whilst weekends are reserved for brunches, today my partner and I have decided to sample Ethiopian cuisine at Gursha (045542665). We've limited knowledge of the fare, but have done our pre-meal homework. And then, we're at Palm Jumeirah, nothing can go wrong in this luxe area, right? Until, we notice that our meals (for two, Dh250) come sans cutlery. Yes, forget forks and knives - there're no spoons in sight too. Let's eat with hands, shall we?
So, our research suggests that to sample the cuisine in its complete glory, we have to go all out. Two rather large platters (Meat/ Ye Fisik for my partner: Shekela tibs, Kitfo, Gomen be sega, Siga Wat, Siga Alecha and Doro Wat; Veg/Ye Tsom: Misir wat, Shiro, Suf Fitfit, Azifa, Fossolia and Key ser salad) arrive, one for each. The lady serving us says she'd be happy if we both finished our meals. Ethiopians are a hospitable lot and it brings them content to serve large, delectable meals to guests; we make a genuine effort to oblige, but fail halfway through.
Living in this region I have developed an affinity for chickpeas (a common ingredient in Middle Eastern food) - so, I instantly fall in love with Shiro. The chilli tinge of the dish prepared with chickpeas powder comes from the popular Berbere (a blend of chillis and Ethiopian spices) sauce. No one can ever have enough of Injeera (four rolls come with the meal) - hence, there's Suf Fitfit in the platter too. Injeera is a spongy bread made of teff (a gluten-free grain) - in this dish, it comes soaked in the juices of (and with) onion, tomato, and green pepper. The sweet sensation is courtesy of the roasted sunflower seed juice - can there be a dish healthier than this? No wonder, vegans love the fare. Using a piece of Injeera as a spoon, I dig in Misir Wot next. A curry of split red lentils simmered once again in Berbere sauce; I can have a bowl full of it!
Whilst, I am relishing Fossolia, a delicious blend of sautéed beans, onion, garlic, and tomatoes; my partner has decided to reserve all his appetite just for the curries. He has already wiped off the Doro Wat - moist chicken pieces in a spicy gravy and a boiled egg for garnish. Not a fan of greens, he confesses he can't say no to Gomen be sega; kale with beef cooked in Ethiopian butter with a hint of paprika. The sautéed minced beef dish called Shekela Tibs impresses all senses - fearlessly, take big bites; pieces of Injeera can help bring down the spice quotient. Siga Wat too is for those who like their beef with intense (read: hot) flavours. The underlying magical ingredient for all the dishes being Niter Kibbeh; clarified butter simmered with fenugreek, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, and cinnamon.
As we leave, after a long brunch, I'm reminded of an aunt, who'd insist that certain meals are best enjoyed with hands. I can't help, but agree - I am still busy licking my fingers! Will we go back? Yes, we just discovered our new favourite cuisine. Now, only if I could get my hands on Berebere or Niter kibbeh; both actually.