21 May Little Africa, North Melbourne
Ever since the first time I saw a photo of it, I have always been intrigued by injera – the Ethiopian flatbread made with teff flour. Injera is used as a sort of ‘plate’, and also as an eating utensil, adorned with stews and salads until all consumed. As my first foray into African cuisine I decided to go on a food adventure to Little Africa, and since it can apparently get quite busy, I booked ahead. The restaurant itself was small and dim, yet cosy and intimate with its humble decor, and despite the cold and rainy weather, it was nearly full. Just as well I reserved a table.
There was quite a variety of meat, fish and vegetable dishes available, mainly of the stewed variety, but a popular diners’ choice is the combination of the day. Little Africa offers both a vegetarian combination, and a meat and vegetarian combination; we chose the latter. The dishes that made up the combination were a bit of a surprise and further adding to the mystery was the presentation: a wide straw cover was laid over the platter, and its contents revealed only when it reached the table.
Our platter came with three meat and three vegetable dishes, along with a spread of injera. Unfortunately I forget the specific names of the dishes we weregiven. There was lamb, fish and chicken, and guessing from the menu, the lamb and fish may have been cooked in berbere: an aromatic and spicy Ethiopian spice mix that lent a dark, rich colour to the sauce. My favourite of the meat offerings was the chicken, which was marvelously juicy and though less heavy handed with the flavour compared to the berbere, had a pleasant and enjoyable character of its own.
For the veggie component of our meal, we had aletcha (mixed vegetables simmered with garlic and seasoning), shiro (chickpea meal stew cooked in bebere) and fool (mashed fava beans mixed with ghee butter and lemon juice and cumin). We both loved the shiro, with a subtle texture that was just a little addictive when scooped up with the injera. I quite enjoyed the fool also. And the injera – so springy! It had a slight sourness to it, reminding me a little of dosa.
From the first phone call to our exit into the freezing night, I was left with a positive impression. It felt like we had been treated to a humble, homecooked meal by a host who would not let us leave unsatisfied. And satisfied we were.
358 Victoria St
North Melbourne, VIC, 3051
(03) 9329 8018