The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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A taste of Ethiopia in Los Angeles

Colorful buildings line the block on Fairfax Avenue. Several restaurants bunched together on this small strip of land radiate pungent, sweet and spicy scents of food cooking inside.

Outside of one restaurant, a man was singing in Amharic – a language I’ve never heard before.

Welcome to the Little Ethiopia district of Los Angeles. A fairly new enclave in Los Angeles, Little Ethiopia started growing in the 1990s as more shops, markets and restaurants opened to welcome new arrivals.

One restaurant, sandwiched between a coffee shop and a thrift shop, has been serving Injera bread since 1985.

Messob, a cozy, homey restaurant, reminds me of going to grandma’s house. But instead of pictures of all the grandchildren lining the walls, there are framed pictures of famous people, maps, awards, and restaurant reviews.

Unlike in grandma’s house, you get to eat with your hands.

Gursha, or feeding your friends or loved ones with your hands, is a tradition in Ethiopian culture. I felt right at home eating with my hands, and I wondered why more restaurants don’t follow suit.

My friends, however, felt as if they were violating some sort of social norms, and preferred to sit and observe the other patrons before diving into their dinner.

I started with Harar, an Ethiopian pale lager. It was very smooth, but not light, despite its color. If I could find this beer in stores, it would definitely be a staple in my refrigerator.

Wanting to sample one of the most popular dishes, I ordered Siga Wot – strips of beef simmered in a bright red pepper sauce.

Upon the recommendation of the server, my friends ordered Tipps, – beef served with sautéed onions, green and yellow bell peppers.

The server asked if it was OK if the food arrived on one dish. Perplexed, we agreed, not knowing what to expect. What arrived on the table was something I would have never imagined.

A huge silver platter lined with injera bread, a spongy, porous dough arrived. The server then brought out our dishes and scooped them on the platter, explaining what each dish.

A basket filled with more injera wrapped in wax paper was placed on the table.

The spread looked like a feast fit for royalty.

I immediately tore into the bread and scooped up the Siga Wot, a dish I was waiting for with much anticipation.

With strips of beef in a peppery, slightly spicy stew with a hint of cinnamon soaked into the injera bread. It was a dish that I felt I have had before, somewhere in a distant past. However, I knew that wasn’t possible, because I would have remembered a dish as tasty as this.

The Tipps was just as appetizing and reminded me of fajitas, but instead of tortillas, you have injera bread.

The portions were generous, but you don’t leave with feeling overstuffed and bloated.

Following our meals, my friends and I ordered espresso. I not a big fan of espresso, but this one was an exception in my book.

The espresso was rich with a somewhat sweet flavor, and it definitely gave me a jolt for the ride home.
After dinner, restaurant owner, Getahun Asfaw, came by to chat with us. Recognizing that we were not one of the regulars, he asked how the meal was, what we thought of the restaurant, and invited us back again to try the Continental coffee – a ceremonial coffee service that he highly recommended.
Dining at Messob was a wonderful experience, one that made me almost homesick for a land I’ve never been to. I will be returning again to mingle with the friendly locals and to try the Continental coffee.

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