Teff grass has consumed my life. So, of course, I am aware that teff is the traditional, staple crop of Ethiopia. It’s tiny seed is one of the ancient grains that arose from Mesopotamia and is still used today to make a flat bread called injera. Having fully engrossed myself in teff research for two years, I decided that I really needed to experience injera myself if I was ever going to be considered a teff expert! I googled Ethiopian restaurants and was happy to find several to choose from in Seattle and Portland (see the list of Ethiopian restaurants below). So, I convinced a friend to join me one night in March at Cafe Salem in Madrona area of Seattle. But first, a little history lesson just for fun…
In my original teff literature review, I had found that Oregon State University Klamath Falls Experiment Station had researched teff grass between 2003 and 2009. Always curious to learn more, I made an appointment with Dr. Richard Roseberg, the researcher on most of the papers, and went to visit in the fall of 2015. After a tour of the research center, we sat down to talk about their experiences with teff grass, and how they had come to study it right here in the PNW. I was told a serendipitous story about about contracted teff seed and an Ethiopian restaurant owner. The [unproven] story goes like this- there once was an Ethiopian restaurant owner in Portland who wanted a cheaper source of teff seed to make injera. He contracted a Willamette valley grower to produce the teff grass and harvest the seed. The seed arrived in a bin labeled VAT1- Brown. The grower was happy to find that the teff grew well! The leftover seed from that harvest was used to start the first experiments at OSU. Extension specialists wanted to better understand the growing and nutritional characteristics of this unique crop. Today, there are only two PV Patented teff varieties- Dessie and Tiffany- but the Corvallis brand and others may have originated from this first VAT1-Brown.
Two things to note about Ethiopian food; 1) it’s a lot of food for a little price, and 2) it’s SPICY! I have to admit that my friend probably enjoyed the food better than I, because I’m the biggest wimp when it comes to spicy food (I request -2 on the 1-5 spice meter scale). However, I was giddy to read and know the word “injera” on the menu amongst the English and Amharic words. The waitress wisely advised that we share one dish. We ordered the meat combo (portion of kitfe, gored gored, key wot, gomen, and cabbage), but many Ethiopian restaurants including this one are heavy on the vegetarian options. It arrived on a large pizza sized metal plate- the injera taking up its entirety- topped with lamb, chicken, collard greens and a cabbage mix.
The texture of the injera was unique. It was spongey and stretchy like a thin piece of edible Playdo (and just as fun to play with). You’re supposed to peel it apart and use it to scoop up the meat and veggies with your fingers though silverware was provided as well. The chicken had a wonderful taste and texture (milder than the lamb) and the cabbage mix was delicious. We washed it all down with a special black tea with cinnamon simply called “special tea” on the menu. The entire dinner for two cost $17.00!
Ethiopian Cuisine in Portland
Bete-Lukas Ethiopian Restaurant (4.6 stars of 159 reviews)
Emame’s Ethiopian Cuisine (4.9 stars of 7 reviews)
Abyssinian Kitchen (4.3 stars of 38 reviews)
Queen of Sheba Restaurant (4.2 stars of 174 reviews)
Sengatera Ethiopian Restaurant (4.6 stars of 55 reviews)
Enat Kitchen Restaurant (4.7 stars of 63 reviews)
E’Njoni Cafe (4.4 stars of 86 reviews)
Abets Restaurant (4.7 stars of 24 reviews)
Ethiopian Cuisine in Seattle
Jebena Cafe (4.7 stars of 86 reviews)
Cafe Salem (4.8 stars of 61 reviews)
Saba Ethiopian Cuisine (4.1 stars of 96 reviews)
Assimba Ethiopian Cuisine (4.3 stars of 17 reviews)
Wonder Ethiopian Restaurant Sport Bar (4.5 stars of 40 reviews)
Adey Abeba Restaurant (4.2 stars of 32 reviews)
Zobel Restaurant (4.0 stars of 25 reviews)
Meskel Restaurant (4.3 stars of 40 reviews)
Altaye Ethiopian Cuisine
Sunset Cafe and Deli
For a list of the best 8 Ethiopian Restaurants in Seattle CLICK HERE.