By: Linda Walton from 3rd Street Villager LA
Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Sub Saharan Africa. In 1974 fossils of the oldest known upright hominid, the 3.5 million year old “Lucy” was found there. The earliest evidence of Ethiopian History was in around 1000 BC when the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon.
Solomon the King of Israel was a wealthy king with a brilliant mind. He exceeded all kings in riches and in wisdom. When Makeda the Queen of Sheba heard of the wisdom of King Solomon she had a great mind to see him. Her desire to encounter Solomon was ardent enough for her to embark on a 1400-mile journey.
Since camels rarely traveled as much as 20 miles per day, The Queen of Sheba's journey would require at least 3 years travel time each way. Although LA traffic can be challenging, we can experience some of Sheba's bounty just across town at Meesob Restaurant on Fairfax.
Crossing the threshold of Messob Restaurant transports you into the sights and smells of the world of Sheba. Simply decorated, the room invites you into a warm and cozy setting.
We were greeted and seated by the manager who escorted us to the center of the room where the Meesob tables are located. Perusing the menu I felt my empty belly set off an alarm. There were no French fries or rice. I touched the Manager's arm and asked if this was correct. He smiled and said there were no French Fries and the Injera replaces rice in the Ethiopian diet. Injera is spongy, flat unleavened bread usually prepared from teff, (Ethiopian grown grain), barley, corn and millet.
Since I don't eat red meat and Joann my dinner companion does, the manager helped us with our selection. We ordered the Vegetarian Delight, a combination of vegetables with a blend of herbs and spices. For my meat-eating friend our order also included lamb, beef, and chicken.
Our beautiful waitress dressed in Ethiopian attire placed a large tray on the Messob table. The tray contained 17 colorful mounds of Wot; a sauce which was either made of chicken, beef, lamb, lentils or vegetables. There were two mounds of each dish.
Yatakilt Alitcha, a steamed vegetable combination of cabbage and carrots seasoned with garlic, onion and ginger. Yemisir Wot split lentils in red pepper sauce.
Collard Greens seasoned with garlic and green chilies. Pumpkin Wot made with chunks of sweet pumpkin and exotic spices. Corn with exotic seasoning. Tomato Fit-Fit a tomato stew served cold combined with pieces of Injera. Each side of the tray contained a salad. All the above were placed on the Injera that covered the entire tray.
The Injera on the tray was even more appetizing than the Injera in the basket because it had absorbed the flavor of the Wots. Our host instructed us on how to eat with our hands using the Injera as a scoop or tool. We were quick studies but laughed each time we fumbled.
Each mouthful was as delicious as the first. None of the dishes were bland or too spicy. The aromatic seasoning came from a combination of shallots, red pepper, fresh ginger, cardamom, cumin, coriander, curry and herbs imported from Ethiopia just like they did on their journey with the Queen of Sheba.
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When Makeda, the Queen of Sheba heard of the great wisdom of King Solomon she had a strong desire to meet him. By camel the Queen and her entourage embarked on a 1400-mile journey up the "Incense Road" along the Red Sea to Israel.
Three years later the Queen arrived and was received with great honor. Solomon bestowed many gifts to the beautiful, Nubian queen. He gave her a luxurious apartment in a palace next to his and provided her with fruits, Rose trees, silks, linens, tapestries and 11 bewitching garments for each day of her visit. Daily he presented her and her 350 servants with rich foods, wines and 25 singing men and women.
Solomon and Sheba frequently roamed Jerusalem as she questioned him and witnessed his legendary wisdom. They tested each other with hard questions, riddles of science, logic, and faith. By the time her six-month visit came to a close they were in love. Solomon begged for her hand in marriage. Despite the fact that the handsome King was her lover and she was mad for his mind, she declined his proposal because of her commitment to her own people. During her long journey home Sheba gave birth to a baby boy whom she named Ibn al-Hakim “son of the wise man”. He later called himself Menelek and was the first King of the Ethiopian dynasty.
After Sheba's departure Solomon gave it his best shot and took on 700 wives and 300 concubines. But unfortunately, he never encountered or loved a woman he could call the equal to the Queen of Sheba.
Messob Ethiopian Restaurant located at 1041 S. Fairfax is equal to none when it comes to taste, tradition and atmosphere. After experiencing a delectable “Vegetarian Delight” we enhanced our meal with Ethiopian Honey Wine. It was presented in a clear wine carafe revealing a yellow-gold elixir. The wine went down like a soft drink, innocent, light and sweet. By the time it reached my stomach there was an explosion of heat. Suddenly I was glassy-eyed and speaking noticeably louder. It was wonderful.
Along with the exotic taste of the food and drink, there was the equally exotic feel of the room.
Our attention was drawn to the bustling activity of each table. Large families were eating, laughing and visibly enjoying themselves. Under a little hut in the window was a table of well-dressed Ethiopian men, engrossed in a quiet but animated conversation. The table next to us had at least eight members from various cultures and ethnicities. Three had their arms on each other shoulders, delighting in their company. The sound of soft Ethiopian melodies floated through the air luring us into a complete emersion of Ethiopian culture.
As we finished our meal a waitress passed by with a smoldering long handle pot. She waved the pot around encouraging the smoke in the direction of the diners. Our host informed us it was the Coffee Ceremony a traditional social ritual. Surprisingly, the smell of the burnt, roasted, coffee beans was divine. We concluded our meal with a demitasse cup of Ethiopian coffee served in Traditional Jebena (Clay Percolator). The amazing aroma was hypnotic and the taste, rich but delicate. Joann Ashley, my dinner companion suggested Ethiopian coffee as a gift idea for coffee loving friends.
As we were leaving, our host bending from the waist thanked us for coming and hoped we enjoyed our meal. We enthusiastically assured him we did and promised to return. Fully stuffed and satisfied our adventure in dining came to a close as we headed to our homes driving south on Fairfax.
Little Ethopia - ETHOPIA RESTO FEST 2011 Posted by admin last August 24, 2011 EST
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