January 6, 2008 7:31 PM   Subscribe

Teff, a native Ethiopian grain, has been cultivated there for at least 4,000 years. Its seeds are smaller than pinheads, and can be easily scattered. Many Ethiopians eat it two to three times a day in injera bread, porridge or, of course, alcohol (pages 3-4). The grain is gluten-free and is full of essential amino acids, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals. It has a short growing season and tolerance for marginal soils and drought or flood conditions, but its low comparative yield optimal sunlight conditions, and labor intensive harvest may limit the spread of the grain.
posted by Pants! (28 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Injera bread and Ethiopian cuisine rules. I miss Ethiopian restaurants.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:36 PM on January 6, 2008

Injera bread is the greatest food in the universe. Ok, no, that's potatoes, but injera bread comes in a wicked close second.

I've got some whole teff hanging out in my cupboard waiting to be made into something -- maybe it's time to try porridge!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:36 PM on January 6, 2008

I am curious about this alcohol, because I am a drunk with an endless need for novelty.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:38 PM on January 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

mmmm injera. Must get Ethiopian tomorrow. . .
posted by Ironmouth at 7:46 PM on January 6, 2008

I miss Ethiopian restaurants.

Ditto that.
posted by humannaire at 7:51 PM on January 6, 2008

Yea, I'm a kook, but the word "Ethiopian" has never conjured thoughts of great food, so thanks for turning me on to this. There's an Ethiopian place just a few blocks away and I'm definitely hitting it now!
posted by snsranch at 8:00 PM on January 6, 2008

Fascinating. By strange coincidence, I just posted about quinoa today--and I don't usually blog about grain a whole lot. (Quinoa at Wikipedia - David Lynch’s quinoa recipe.) It's delicious stuff, fluffy yet crunchy, easy to cook, and a complete protein with all sorts of health benefits. Now I'll have to look into this teff.
posted by muckster at 8:04 PM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Teff is like pumpkins and cranberries. If it was really tasty people would eat it year round. But that does not mean it is not great for you. My own theory is that anything we were eating or drinking for the last 10,000 years is probably the best thing for you. Our bodies have evolved to exploit it in the best way.
posted by Mr_Zero at 8:18 PM on January 6, 2008

I love injera bread. When I tried to describe it to a coworker several years ago who'd never had it I realized how unlike any other kind of bread it is. The closest I got to an accurate description was "like a stretchy steamed sourdough pancake".

Quinoa on the other hand seems a little bitter to me.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:39 PM on January 6, 2008

Hey, anybody here allergic to teff? I didn't realize injera was made of a grain I'd never eaten before, but it might explain why I was food-poisoning level sick for two days after my first Ethiopian meal, though my dining companion was fine.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:40 PM on January 6, 2008

yum, injera. Might have to hit U Street this week.
posted by shoepal at 8:41 PM on January 6, 2008

Injera bread and Ethiopian cuisine rules. I miss Ethiopian restaurants.

Me too.
posted by homunculus at 8:56 PM on January 6, 2008

Hey, if anyone here if loves Ethiopian/Eritrean food feels like trying it at home, here's a hint: forget about teff.

We've tried making ingera at home with teff...even a little teff with lots of flour...with inedible results.

BUT...if you have Ethiopian restaurants around, chances are that some of them are attached to small grocery stores, where you can buy a half dozen enjera loaves(pancakes?) and a tub of the peppery spice they use.

Then: just use plenty of butter and a long leisurely saute, with chicken, red lentils, yellow split peas, greens...all in separate pans...and you got yourself a fine-tasting Ethiopian meal.

Variations abound. Get yourself some nice bass-heavy Ethiopian music for your dinner soundtrack, and you're ready for something almost as good as what you can get around the corner.
posted by kozad at 8:57 PM on January 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

This is an amazing coincidence, I just cooked my first ethopian meal using some premade Injera (I can't find bloody teff anywhere here) I found in a foreign food shop over the holidays. I made my own Berbere and Niter Kebbeh and used it to make some Dora Wat, Sik Sik Wat, Chickpea Wat and uhh the lentil one Mesir Wat....

Now I love Ethiopian food almost as much as I love Indian (which I cook a great deal), but I have to say, and no offence to Ethopian gourmets, but wow. Every single recipe is just a variation on Onions/Garlic/Ginger + X (meat, veg, lentil) cooked in Niter Kebbeh and with variable amounts of Berbere... Still, tastes brilliant and all that, so three cheers for it being easy to cook!
posted by Smegoid at 9:15 PM on January 6, 2008

On preview. I mean, I literally cooked it a few hours ago. I was probably plopping the Wats on the injera has Pants! was posting this...
posted by Smegoid at 9:17 PM on January 6, 2008

Quinoa on the other hand seems a little bitter to me.

BrotherCaine, from what I read the bitter taste disappears if you rinse the quinoa before cooking it -- it didn't seem bitter to me at all.
posted by muckster at 9:17 PM on January 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Quinoa on the other hand seems a little bitter to me.

Ya, you have to rinse the hell out of it before cooking. It is well worth it though as it is one of the most nutritious grains, very high in protein.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:31 PM on January 6, 2008

Most Ethiopian restaurants use wheat flour in their injera - my local one uses 60% wheat flour, 40% teff - so that's not edible for gluten-free people. Teff has a good flavor but as a flour it leaves something to be desired.

I do like quinoa pearls. They taste good and are pretty too. Occhiblu makes a quinoa-cranberry-squash bake that is really delicious.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:35 PM on January 6, 2008

I like quinoa - it's a great breakfast food - and like many others here, I miss Ethiopian food. I know there are a couple (or maybe down to one now in San Francisco?) restaurants in the city; it makes me miss DC, with its wealth of Ethiopian/Eritrean eateries.
posted by rtha at 10:28 PM on January 6, 2008

Anyone else explore the website under the link to injera bread in the FPP? A small chunk of the timecube fell there, I think.
posted by maxwelton at 12:55 AM on January 7, 2008

Just so everyone knows: most people go to Adams Morgan in DC for Ethiopian, but the best restaurants are clustered around U Street station, in my opinion.

There's a really excellent one a couple of blocks away from the station (in which direction, alas, I have forgotten) that also makes ful.

And if all you've ever eaten is the Ethiopian stews, you should definitely branch out to two of their snack foods. Their jerky is crunchy rather than chewy, but very tasty, and then there are these little crunchy snacks made, I think, out of wheat. Both are sold from the counter in tiny baggies.

Also, you can tell a really authentic (as in, visited by Ethiopian locals regularly) joint if it has spaghetti. Yes, spaghetti. Don't forget that Ethiopia was the main (only?) colonial win by Italy in the 20th century. Italian food is very popular there. For sure an Ethiopian restaurant is the only place where you're like to see a Pannetone outside of an Italian bakery/delicatessen.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:55 AM on January 7, 2008


There is a decent Ethiopian restaurant on Valencia, somewhere between 16th and 20th, another one in the Haight, in the middle of the tourist area, that is pretty good.

According to the Eritrean clerk at what used to be my cigarette and beer store, any of the 4 restaurants on Telegraph Ave. between 51st and Ashby are OK, but Cafe Eritrea on Telegraph and 41st. is the best.

Cafe Colucci is attached to a small store that sells anything you need to bake injera bread. They will teach you how to do it, or you can buy it ready to eat.
posted by Dr. Curare at 1:59 AM on January 7, 2008

For sure an Ethiopian restaurant is the only place where you're like to see a Pannetone outside of an Italian bakery/delicatessen.

Here in Japan there are some bakers who make pannetone. We buy it every Christmas, it's kind of a yearly thing in our household. And of course, we're talking Japanese bakers who went to Italy and got it down cold before returning to Japan to set up shop. Damn tasty! For that matter, there's also an excellent French-style bakery in my neighborhood that makes the best baguette and croissant I've ever had anywhere.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:06 AM on January 7, 2008

Goddamn it, now I miss Ethiopian restaurants too; that's about the only thing that would get me back to D.C. now that Kamkin is no more. And Deathalicious is right about the spaghetti; it's terrific, and I used to order it a lot when I didn't feel like the usual injera+stew (getting strange looks from other diners who didn't know the history and had no clue what spaghetti was doing on the menu). Anybody remember back when they couldn't make injera with teff because it wasn't being exported (food crisis in Ethiopia)?

While we're on the subject, I personally can't stand tej (honey wine), but if you like it, or are just interested in the topic, check out Harry Kloman's All About Tej page.
posted by languagehat at 6:11 AM on January 7, 2008

Ahh injera, the lefsa of Ethiopia. I am lucky to live near so many Ethiopian restaurants. (Try location G in NoVa for a good time and authentic Ethiopian karaoke, but stay in the District for the best food....) It is well nigh impossible to make proper and edible injera on the first try. I have no qualms with baking other crazy things but with this... I leave it to the professionals.
posted by wowbobwow at 2:37 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Aw man, now I'm hungry!
Cafe Eritrea D'Afrique at 40th and Telegraph (right by Macarthur BART) is indeed the best Eritrean food I've had, both as a vegetarian and a carnivore. You can also buy injera from them. And they're open til 11pm, unlike anything else in Oakland! Cafe Colucci is, I believe, Ethiopian so the food is slightly different. I know people who love it, but I've always gotten shitty shitty service there.
posted by smartyboots at 4:23 PM on January 7, 2008

Many thanks, if only for the injera instructions! As a NorDakotan lefse veteran (thanks for the comparison, wowbobwow!) this is next on the list, after having recorded the music of a charming and utterly delightful Ethiopian vocalist as part of the day-to-day job, and becoming introduced to the culture and cuisine thereby. Cheers, Pants!
posted by DrAwkward at 1:11 AM on January 8, 2008

As far as SF bay area restaurants go, I've tried and liked Massawa in SF, and Shebele in the south bay. There is an Eritrean cultural center in San Jose, with a moderately sized community including at least four restaurants. Red Sea has a great reputation, but the service was excruciatingly slow the last two times I went. Gojo in San Jose has a little store next to it that sells Teff.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:26 AM on January 8, 2008

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