Medha Imam: Injera is a porous,
spongelike sourdough bread that is quite literally the
foundation of Ethiopian cuisine. It’s made out of teff, the
smallest grain in the world, and it doubles as both
a plate and silverware in many Ethiopian meals. Medha: Woo!
Romeo Regalli: There you go, look at that! Medha: Oh, my God! Today, we’re going to explore injera and Ethiopian cuisine in general with my friend Rania, who’s
originally from Ethiopia. I’m really excited,
we’re gonna head to one of the few places in Brooklyn
that serves this cuisine, so let’s take a look. But before we do, here’s
a little information that you need to know. Originating in what is
now Ethiopia and Eritrea, injera is thousands of years old. The strongest evidence of injera cooking dates back to at least 600 AD, when the first mitads, or
traditional round hot plates, were found in excavations of
the ancient city of Aksum. Today, injera is the base of
nearly every Ethiopian meal and is typically topped with numerous vegetable and meat dishes. It starts off with teff, a
nutritious, gluten-free grain originally grown in the highlands
of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Awash, an Ethiopian restaurant,
is one place that serves injera and Ethiopian
cuisine in New York City. Medha: So, we’ve made our
way to Awash in Brooklyn, and I’m here with my friend Rania, who is originally from Ethiopia. Rania, thank you for joining us. Rania Sheikh: Thank you for having me. I am super excited that we’re gonna try some Ethiopian food today. Medha: Awesome. So, we’re
gonna try those out today, and let’s go inside. Rania: Let’s do it. Medha: We met up with Awash’s
co-owners and partners, Romeo and Milka Regalli. Romeo hails from Addis Ababa,
the capital of Ethiopia, and Milka grew up in a
predominantly Ethiopian community in the Bronx. Romeo: When people go to
an Ethiopian restaurant, they have to go with an open mind. You have to be open to
try different things; you have to be open to
eating with your hands. Milka Regalli: So, this is the batter, and we’re just gonna make injera. You mix it with water
to create this batter, let it ferment for about three days, and then we use the mitad, which is a flat pan,
it’s about 500 degrees, to make the injera. Medha: Underneath, the
injera cooks from the bottom while small holes begin
to dot the surface. Milka: Injera is naturally gluten-free. What we serve here is a
mix of gluten and teff. Romeo: The reason why we
mix it with wheat flour is because teff is very expensive. We would be out of business
if we just serve teff. But we do provide that for
people who, you know, ask for it. Rania: The gluten-free
part is pretty funny because I think Ethiopian
food has become so mainstream because of the gluten-free
aspect of injera, but also because so
much of the main dishes are actually also vegetarian. So, it’s, like, gluten-free.
It’s vegetarian. It’s basically every,
like, millennial’s dream. (all laughing)
Romeo: Right. Medha: This looks a little
different than some of the injera I’ve had before. It’s,
like, a darker color. Romeo: Because that’s the 100% teff. Medha: Oh! Rania: So good. Medha: Mm. Once cooked, injera is topped
with vegetable and meat dishes like yater kik alecha, made
from yellow split peas; gomen, a stew of collard greens; atakilt, a mix of cabbage,
carrot, and potatoes; shiro, a spicy chickpea dish; and doro wot, a chicken
dish cooked with ginger, garlic, hard-boiled eggs and berbere, an Ethiopian blend of 30 different spices. Medha: Woo! Romeo: There you go, look at that! Medha: Oh, my God! That looks amazing. Romeo: And then I’ll bring
the injera on the side. All right?
Rania: Perfect. Rania: If you want something,
in Ethiopian cuisine, you wouldn’t say I wanna eat injera, you would say I wanna eat shiro, or kikil, or misir, or doro wot, and then, the assumption
is it comes with injera. Right? So it’s like if you
say I want a turkey sandwich, it comes in a sandwich, or in bread. All right. So, basically, as you can see, it’s all on one giant plate, and you can see all the
different little foods that we cooked earlier, and
you take some fresh injera, cut a little piece,
and then start digging. So good. Medha: Satisfaction. Rania: So, typically, when
you scoop something up you just wanna scoop it with the injera without touching the actual sauce, and if you successfully scoop
it you just put the injera on top and you grab from the corner, and you just pick it right up, and it’s like a little
triangle in your hand. And then when you eat
it, you eat it in a way where you’re not putting your
hand in your mouth, really, you’re just kinda dropping
the injera in your mouth. Medha: OK.
Rania: So it’s like… Medha: Oh, OK, I’m gonna scoop it. Like this, right? Rania: Pretty good to me. So, what’s the verdict? Medha: It’s so good. Immediately after the shiro taste, you could taste the sourness
of the injera itself. Rania: Yeah. Sometimes in Ethiopian culture, people would, like, pick up, like, a bit of food in their hands and then they would
feed it to someone else, and it’s called gursha, but it’s a sign of love and respect. You do this to someone you love. The Ethiopian culture is
generally very community-based, so when you eat like
this on one giant plate with all of your family members, it’s because you’re pretty close. It’s supposed to mix, that’s why they’re all on the same plate. How is that? Medha: It’s really good. Rania: Towards the end of your
meal, what you usually do is, you start scooping the
injera that’s on the plate. So, you see how this is,
like, a little bit soggy? Because it’s been
soaking up all the spices and all the water from the lentil and all the other sauces on the plate. So, eventually, if
you’re doing this right, your plate should be totally empty and all the injera that’s on the plate should also be eaten. Medha: That’s awesome. I think I’m filling up, and I’ve had such a great
time eating this with you and learning so much more about injera and just the Ethiopian
community in general. Thank you for joining me. Rania: Me too, thank you
so much for having me. And thanks for letting me eat some food. I think I’m gonna quit
my day job and join you. I’m just kidding, I’m
not gonna quit my job.