"We're talking dream date compared to my horror. It started out fine, she's a very nice person, and we're sitting and we're talking at this Ethiopian restaurant that she wanted to go to. And I was making jokes, you know like, 'Hey I didn't know that they had food in Ethiopia? This will be a quick meal. I'll order two empty plates and we can leave.' Yeah, nothing from her not even a smile."
--Bill Crystal as Harry Burns in the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally
Prior to about a week ago, my knowledge of Ethiopian cuisine was almost limited to the above joke. So when I learned of a new Ethiopian restaurant in Malden, I knew I had to check it out to expand my culinary horizons, to experience something new.
Habesha Restaurant is located in a small strip of stores on Main Street in Malden. It is a small place but still has a long bar where you can also sit. They carry a variety of wine and beers, including Ethiopian beers and honey wine. Open for lunch and dinner, they have a regular food menu as well as a number of specials each day.
Ethiopian cuisine generally consists of spicy meat and vegetable dishes, which are served atop injera, a type of sourdough flatbread made out of fermented teff flour. Teff is a gluten free grain found only in Africa. There are also different varieties of injera in Ethiopia, including nech (white), kay (red) and tikur (black). Injera has a slight sour taste and a spongy texture. Ethiopians generally do not use utensils. Instead, you eat with your right hands, using pieces of the injera to scoop up the food.
An interesting custom is the gorsha, which is considered an act of friendship. While eating with friends, you might tear off some injera, put some food in it and then put it into a friend's mouth. This is called a gorsha, and the larger the injera you feed your friend, the stronger the friendship.
I stopped by for lunch and tried one of their specials, the Minchet Aresh ($8), which is made from ground beef with garlic and a berbere sauce, berbere being a mix of powdered chile pepper and spices. They brought me a large plate, covered with a big injera, and there was a mound of the ground beef and sauce atop the injera. I also received an extra injera in a basket.
There was no silverware, but extra napkins. That was not a problem for me and I dug right into the dish. Now, the injera was a bit strange at first, being very spongy almost rubbery to the touch. Plus, it was not warm. I used a piece to scoop up some of the meat and sauce and then popped it into my mouth. It was delicious, flavorful and only mildly spicy, and the injera was fine with the meat. There was plenty of meat in the dish and I finished all of it.
Service was very good. My first experience with Ethiopian cuisine went very well and I eagerly look forward to checking out more of the menu.
535 Main Street
Malden, MA 02148
Phone: (781) 399-0868