Eating Ethiopian food is a five-finger experience.
That's not just talk: picking up hunks of stewed lamb and chicken and sopping up lentil and split pea curries with injera bread takes all five digits.
That's what we all learn soon after arriving at Gohe while on a recent tour of West End restaurants organized by the neighbourhood BIZ. Owner Ali Saeed, who hails from Ethiopia's capital city (and the capital city of Africa) Addis Ababa, gave us a quick tutorial about his food before we got busy.
Gohe moved to its current Sargent Avenue location about two years ago after its downtown spot was torn down for redevelopment. The move also precipitated a name change. (The restaurant was formerly known as Yenat.) His new spot has been completely transformed. The former pawn shop is now a clean, sunlight and cheery spot with a few booths, tables and a small bar at the back of the room. (When we visited, a flat screen television anchored up high on the wall above the bar was tuned into World Cup Soccer.)
On our visit, Saeed and his crew at Gohe served classic Ethiopian fare: spicy lentil, split pea (yellow pea), cabbage, carrot and potato wots (or stews), chicken doro wot, spicy lamb wot and spicy kitfo beef. Injera—the Ethiopian version of table bread that resembles a spongy crepe—completed the spread. (Saeed later told me that he is has been the only supplier of injera to markets in Winnipeg since 1993. He makes between 15,000 and 20,000 injera every month.)
Ethiopian food is a more than sustenance, it represents family and togetherness, Saeed tells us. Typically, a large, flat basket is lined with injera and topped with a variety of stews to feed an entire table of guests. Extra injera is on hand to rip into pieces and grab scoopfuls of the spiced stews.
In Ethiopia, spice doesn't necessarily mean heat. If hot, spicy food isn't your game, tuck into the lentil and split pea stews. The chicken doro wat also delivers mild notes of ber-beri (Ethiopian red pepper). Cayenne, black pepper, paprika, onion, garlic and ginger are all staples in the cupboard too.
Insider's tip: Ethiopian food goes great with beer. But if ale isn't your first choice, saddle up to a traditional Ethiopian coffee.
That potent brew of earthy and strong beans will set you straight and send you home with a spring in your step.
(For more information about the West End BIZ click here.)
Peg City Grub is your ultimate source for everything foodie in Winnipeg. From the hottest chefs to the best new restaurants to the most delicious events, we’ve got you covered. Follow us on Twitter @pegcitygrub and visit www.tourismwinnipeg.com for more on the city’s fabulous dining options.
Peg City Grub is a Tourism Winnipeg culinary initiative.