Fetien Gebre-Michael’s essential Ethiopian
The chef/owner of Konjo Ethiopian Food serves up your guide to her home country’s cuisine.
Eating at Ethiopian Food Truck or Konjo Ethiopian Food at Edgewater Public Market is like a culinary adventure to the Horn of Africa. But if you haven’t yet tried Ethiopian cuisine, don’t be intimidated: Chef/owner Fetien Gebre-Michael strives to make her home country’s cuisine deliciously approachable.
“We want to give customers a way to try Ethiopian food that’s not overwhelming,” said the Metropolitan State University of Denver alumna. “Be open and try something new. You’ll really enjoy it.”
Ethiopian food maintains a distinct identity, even standing among the rest of Africa’s rich cuisines, Gebre-Michael said.
For instance, instead of the traditional African rice base, in Ethiopian dishes you’ll find the wonderfully unique injera – a crepelike flatbread, fermented and finished on a griddle, with a distinct almost-sourdough flavor to it – at the heart of most meals.
Don’t get tripped up by the lack of silverware, she said. In Ethiopia, dining is a communal experience, dishes are served family-style and injera is the most accepted vessel for scooping directly from the plate to your mouth.
When scanning an Ethiopian menu, expect to see “berbere,” a fundamental Ethiopian chili powder made up of 14-16 ingredients including crushed peppers, garlic, fenugreek and cardamom, Gebre-Michael said. Other must-know dishes include “misir,” spiced red lentils; “gomen,” seasoned spinach, kind of like an Ethiopian version of collard greens; and “niter kibbeh,” a scratch-made, spiced clarified butter.
Good news, vegans: For religious reasons, many Ethiopians observe a vegan diet every Wednesday and Friday, as well as for the entirety of Lent. Gebre-Michael always serves a variety of vegetable dishes such as combinations of gomen, misir, curried cabbage, seasoned split yellow peas, carrots and potatoes, served with berbere and niter kibbeh.
Ready to go deeper into Konjo Ethiopan Food’s menu? Here’s a fast primer covering three tasty dishes.
This stir-fry-stew hybrid is a staple of Ethiopian households. Tender, cubed meat (beef, chicken or lamb) is sauteed with red onions, garlic, jalapenos and tomatoes and served with spicy berbere and a combination of misir, gomen and potatoes.
Think Ethiopian samosa or empanada. They come baked or fried and are stuffed with savory brown lentils and a variety of spices and herbs.
This robust stew is often reserved for special occasions in Ethiopia but is a Colorado crowd-pleaser. It features bone-in chicken and hard-boiled eggs simmered in a thick medley of rich herbs and spices, including the fundamental berbere seasoning.
Konjo Ethiopian Food is open seven days a week at Edgewater Public Market. You can find the schedule for Ethiopian Food Truck on its website or by following it on Facebook. Konjo Catering is available for orders and is working with Frontline Foods on prepackaged meals for front-line health care workers.