Many Americans aren't aware of this, and would be surprised to learn, that the largest population of Ethiopians living in the United States, is right here in Washington, D.C. (estimated around 350,00). Right behind D.C. is Los Angeles (96,000) and New York City (10,000) (source).
Ok, so I might've used Wikipedia by way of Google to get to this information, but they do cite reliable sources such as The Washington Post and CNN. The block around U and Ninth Street in D.C. is known as "Little Ethiopia," but trust me when I say that the population spreads into the surrounding metropolitan area. So, it's no surprise that most people living in the Washington, D.C. area have at some time experienced Ethiopian food. The number of restaurants serving Ethiopian cuisine in the D.C. area is pretty high!
Meskerem and Dukem are the two most famous and are right in D.C. But,for some of us locals we like to try the smaller hole in the wall restaurants right in our own backyard. So, when N was in town we both went to Enat. I mentioned this in last week's 'Week in Food' post and it was up on our Instagram, so I wanted to go into what we ate and a bit more about the cuisine in general.
The meal is served on a large circular platter covered with injera (a bread made with teff flour). The bread is soft and spongy and works as both an eating utensil and to soak up the delicious flavors of the stews and dishes laid on top of it. We had five dishes on our platter. We ordered a beef stew (kay watt), spiced lentils (yemisir watt), collard greens (gomen watt), minced raw beef with clarified butter (kitfo) - you can ask for the level of 'cooked' that you'd like, and braised spinach.
There are two, what I'd like to call, hallmarks of Ethiopian cuisine - berbere and niter kibbeh. Berbere is this spice mixture/sauce that makes some of the dishes have a deep red color (see the dish in the lower left corner below). It's a spice mixture of of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and other ingredients and is often added to stews. The other hallmark is niter kibbeh, or "Ethiopian butter," which is clarified butter steeped with onion, garlic, ginger and spices. Both of these add such immense flavor that is truly unique.
I just love it. While Enat is N's favorite Ethiopian restaurant, one of my favorites is Meaza, but there are so many delicious restaurants, that I think you'll be safe picking any of them.