I love eating with my hands. Cous cous, picking crawfish, shrimp and crabs, dragging lobster through drawn butter and salad (I know, weird) all require the most tactile side of dining – actually touching the food. And then there’s the act of feeding myself. I love that too, especially when there is some type of bread is used as a food transport. The Ethiopian cuisine at Nile is precisely in my wheelhouse: the breadth of stewed vegetables, lentils and meats, sharp spices, buttery tastes and textures, and the sourdough scent/taste of injera (the spongy, crepe-like bread made from a ground grass seed called teff) torn into large pieces and used as a “scoop” for eating everything by hand. It can be messy – several napkins worth – but it’s an essential experience. Plus this ethnic New Orleans cuisine is incredibly delicious, hinting at the flavors of India, the Arabian peninsula and of course flavors all its own.
At New Orleans’ two Ethiopian restaurants, Nile and Cafe Abyssinia (within a scant mile of each other on Magazine Street), there are spectacular chicken, lamb and beef dishes, but it’s the vegetable combination plate that could convert the staunchest carnivore to vegetarianism: a large, thin, flat round of injera is topped with small mounds of lentil pulses musky and spicy; stewed greens; slow-cooked cabbage, carrots and potatoes; or beets, onion and potatoes. Platters can be shared as long as you don’t mind everyone digging in to the same plate. We’re talking serious double dipping. While you’re at it, Ethiopian spice tea (yes, it’s served in glassware), hot or iced, is a bit of Heaven and a great partner to the food. For the faint of finger food eating, utensils are available, and if you’re dining with me, I’ll give you a hand.
Friday Food Finds is a series by Lorin Gaudin about delicious discoveries in New Orleans food and dining. Check out the latest in New Orleans cuisine that’s caught our attention and put it on your own weekend eating itinerary!