Yesterday for lunch, I had a real craving for Ethiopian food. I had been wanting it for a while now, but just couldn't seem to get myself over to Cafe Lalibela, my favorite Ethiopian in the Valley. Moody was feeling the same way (perhaps it's the NPR sponsorship commercial we heard in the morning), so we headed on over for lunch.
If you've never had Ethiopian, you don't know what you're missing. Traditionally, Ethiopian food is eaten with your hands, using a spongy bread called injera. Injera is made from teff, a grain popular in Ethiopia. The injera usually serves as a liner for a large communal tray containing the various meet and vegetable dishes ordered for the table as well as a utensil for picking up the food and eating it.
One of the best deals going at Cage Lalibela is their lunch special. You get your choice of soft drink or iced tea, three items from the menu, and your choice of injera or 1/2 injera and half rice. The menu items you can choose from are broken up into meat dishes and vegetarian dishes. From the meat side, you have your choice of Kye sega wat (spicy hot beef), Alicha sega wat (mild beef), and Doro wat (spicy chicken). Each of these is simmered in a different sauce with various spices. The vegetarian dishes you can choose from include Misir wat (red split lentils in hot sauce with herbs), Fosolia (lightly spiced string beans with carrots and onion), Tikil gomen (lightly spiced cabbage, carrots and potato), Gomen (chopped collard greens with garlic and onion) Azifah (brown lentils with onion, jalapeno and spices served cold).
It's always hard for me to choose, which is why I really like coming for dinner as well where you can order a larger sampler for 2-4 people which includes additional items not on the lunch menu. That said, I ended up ordering the Kye sefa wat, the Doro wat, and the Tikil gomen. The beef was especially good as I scooped up pinched finger full after fingerful with pieces of injera. The Tikil gomen was also really nice. Of all the cuisines I've had, I have to say that Ethiopian has to be one of my favorites for vegetarian. The chicken was good too, although in retrospect I wish I had ordered a second vegetable. Next time.
I really need to remind myself to eat Ethiopian more often. It's relatively healthy, especially given all of the vegetable options, inexpensive, and just plain good. As loaded with corporate chain restaurants as the Phoenix area seems to be, I'm really glad we have a gem like Cafe Lalibela around to keep things interesting.