While preparing for a humanitarian media project I am leading to Ethiopia for SalaamGarage, I was inspired to take my research one step further and head south to Little Ethiopia in Washington DC.
I discovered DC Metro Tours Little Ethiopia Walking Tour by chance on Twitter. The tour starts with a traditional Ethiopian breakfast followed by the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Lunch comes soon on the heels of the coffee ceremony and after about 3 hours, it winds up at an Ethiopian-owned Italian dessert shop.
I grew up in the DC suburbs. Back then there was a particular Ethiopian restaurant in Adams Morgan that didn’t card us for our “innocent” orders of Irish coffees. My love for Ethiopian food was born then. It is my favorite cuisine, one best explored stateside in Washington DC; the Washington DC metro area is home to about 200,000 people of Ethiopian descent, the largest population of Ethiopians outside Ethiopia.
The restaurants are concentrated around 18th Street, U Street, and the newest concentration is on 9th Street, where there is a cluster of about 10 Ethiopian restaurants.
Ethiopian breakfast at Habesha Market and Carryout.
1. Ethiopian breakfast at Habesha Market and Carryout. Special Kinche: Cracked wheat blended with herbal butter and mixed with spices, fresh tomatoes, chopped onions, and mitmita (a spicy powdered seasoning). Although we were given utensils, we ate traditional style with our right fingers.
2. Breakfast at Habesha Market and Carryout. Another breakfast dish that is also vegetarian. Special Foul: broad beans, smashed and spiced, awaze (a spicy sauce), onions, topped with mayonnaise and fried scrambled egg. We scooped this dish up with injera and honey bread. Injera is made with an ancient grain called teff; it is torn by hand and is used to pick up food with the right hand.
Little Ethiopia Restaurant
3. This subterranean space is decorated to evoke the typical Ethiopian village. Though the kitschy cuteness of it seems touristy, the main clientele are Ethiopians who come for music, food, and socializing.
4. A traditional Ethiopian table called a mesob is strung with a women's shawl. The lid will be lifted off when guests arrive making room for food trays and coffee. A celebration of Ethiopian culture is evident in every corner of this family friendly spot.
Little Ethiopia Restaurant coffee ceremony.
5.Women traditionally perform the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony. It starts with roasting the beans on a curved metal pan over an open flame or on a small coffee furnace. Here, the ceremony is performed on the small stage that hosts Ethiopian musicians on weekend nights. Roasted over an electric burner, these pale tan-green colored beans will soon be oily and black.
In the midst of the Little Ethiopia Restaurant coffee ceremony.
7. These beans are mid-roast and smoking up the place with a mixture of sharp burned coffee and pleasing toasted smells. Once the beans are sufficiently roasted the pan is walked around to totally fill the room with aroma.
The coffee ceremony continues
8. The beans are ground for the coffee in the back with an electric grinder, a modern addition to the ceremony where once a mortar and pestle were used. Coffee steeps in a beautiful clay pot with an elegant spout and handle called a jabena.
9. Coffee pour... Coffee (bunna), represents 60% of Ethiopiaâs export earnings. Ethiopia is known as the birthplace of coffee, so the importance of coffee to Ethiopianâs canât be exaggerated.
13. Zenebech Injera Deli and Grocery. Doro Wat: (the Ethiopian national dish) a spicy chicken stew with boiled egg. We used the large spoon to cut up the hard-boiled egg.
Zenebech Injera Deli and Grocery.
14. Zenebech Injera Deli and Grocery. Doro Wat on the injera covered platter
Yetenbi Restaurant- Cafe and Pastries
15. My brother Matt celebrating his 27th birthday by digging into a tiramisu while my friend takes a photo of the Yetenbi chocolate and hazelnut biscotti.
Yetenbi Restaurant- Cafe and Pastries
16.Yetenbi Restaurant- Cafe and Pastries. The pastry chef at Yetenbi was trained in Italy. Although Ethiopia is one of the only countries in Africa to never have been colonized, it was occupied by Italy from 1936-1939. As a result, Italian food and deserts like pasta al forno, tiramisu, and biscotti, are quite popular in Ethiopia and Eritrea. A very nice tiramisu to end the tour completely stuffed.
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Maggie Soladay is an editorial photography editor, producer, photographer and activist based in NYC. She is the NYC chief of SalaamGarage, a humanitarian media organization that facilitates meaningful storytelling by partnering with international and local non-profits. She also believes that a good story can be told with whatever a person has. In this case, a point shoot camera, the Lumix LX3.