Getting Started with Ethiopian Food
If you have never eaten Ethiopian food, you are in for a wonderful and rich experience. It will also be a flavorful adventure.
In the Ethiopian tradition, there is no need for utensils. We use our bread, Injera, to dip and wrap our food. We will gladly supply a fork if you prefer. Most of our food is stewed, meaning that it cooks for a while, seeping in the spices. This applies to many of our meat dishes, and equally to our vegetarian dishes. If you are a vegetarian, you will find that almost half of our menu is devoted to meatless offerings, and they are cooked truly without any meat sauce or broth.
Our traditional meal is a large platter with Injera on the bottom, and eight different selections from our menu placed on the bread. Injera is also provided on the side to use for eating. We share this platter at the table. At the Queen of Sheba we refer to this as "Queen's Eight." You may let us choose the selections of food, but if you have a particular preference, we will gladly accommodate those. We can make a vegetarian Queen's Eight, or a non-spicy Queen's Eight.
Basically, our cuisine starts with Wot, which is meat or vegetables that are stewed in our special Ethiopian herbs and spices. Doro Wot is a stew of chicken (free range), hard boiled eggs (also free range) and combined spices and seasonings. It is a spicy dish. If spicy is not your thing, try Dora Alecha Wot, which is still stewed and flavorful, but much more mild. You will also see the expression Tibs on our menu. Tibs is simply sauteed instead of stewed. It has its own unique seasoning, and is usually milder in the spice rating then Wot. All our meat dishes are beef, chicken or lamb.
Our vegetarian/vegan offerings will probably look familiar, since most Ethiopian vegetables have made their way into American cuisine. Lentils, split yellow peas, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and collard greens are our specialties.
Our seafood uses ocean and freshwater fish here at Queen of Sheba. In Ethiopia we use fish from lake Tana, which happens to be the source of the Nile river. We offer shrimp, Tilapia, and whole fish.
Usually, the first question I get with newcomers is about our bread, Injera. It is a cross between an American pancake, a French crepe, and a Middle Eastern pita. It is soft and spongy and designed to sop up the juices from the stews. Injera is made right here in this restaurant. The batter is made from whole wheat, barley and a special Ethiopian flour called teff. Believe it or not, teff, which provides Injera with that slightly sour taste, is grown commercially in Idaho and Minnesota. Teff is "Gluten Free" and we do make "Gluten Free" Injera. Injera is made by pouring the batter on an 18 inch round skillet, and it cooks until it bubbles, much like an American pancake. But instead of turning it over, once the bubbles stay open, the cooking is done.
Cooking Ethiopian food in America is a challenge. While teff and most of our meat, fish, chicken and vegetable are locally available, I must import our tea, coffee and spices on a regular basis.
So, welcome to my restaurant. If we are crowded, be patient. All of our dishes are prepared individually. Sit back, relax, and enjoy African cooking at its freshest and finest.
A word about spices! Ethiopian specialties can be spicy, but you should tell us your preferences. Some dishes are easy to alter. We do serve mild food.