Luckily for Nairobi residents, this City boasts one of the richest Ethiopian Diasporas in the region and as a result our tummies and palates have a lot to be thankful for. Venture out towards the bustling Arwings Kodhek Road which runs through Hurlingham and you’ll see the rich diversity. Dotted on and around Arwings Kodhek are numerous Ethiopian haunts from salons and barber shops, where the language of choice is Amharic, to one of this city’s most famous and loved Ethiopian Restaurants, Habesha.
The one thing that hits you the moment you step foot in the restaurant is the genial and warm welcome. The restaurant, just off Arwings Kodhek is arranged almost like its own little satellite village replete with an Ethiopian curio shop and salon. The main restaurant is al fresco, set under a canopy of leafy trees most commonly frequented by expatriates and Ethiopians, who live and work around the Lenana Rd and Hurlingham area.
For those of you who have haven’t tried Ethiopian food, the traditional cuisine consists mainly of bread, stews, lentils and spices. The 2 ingredients that are distinctive to Ethiopian food is the bread, injera – a flatbread made out of fermented iron-rich teff grain flour and the spice powder, berebere – which is made from a multitude of toasted spices including white and black pepper, fenugreek seeds, chillies, garlic and ginger. Berebere is used as a base for the majority of Ethiopian dishes, which lends a heat and wonderful harmony of flavours that kicks in a little after the first few bites.
Dining Ethiopian style favours a communal style of eating where all the individual items from the menu are presented collectively on a large dish, laden with a large sheet of injera. Be prepared to get your hands dirty – this is the kind of place where it is sacrilege to eat with a fork and knife. We tried the Ziltel Tibs (strips of beef, pan fried with onions and garlic and rosemary) which was a real hit and a wonderful option for those Nyama Choma die-hards. In fact, as a vegetarian myself, I was spoilt for choice and the beetroot dish which was sautéed with berebere, onions, and garlic in its own juice had a delicious sweet and sour tang which complemented the injera and misir wot (spiced split lentils) beautifully. In fact, as far a balanced diet goes, I think that the Ethiopians have got it spot on. You’ll find a good variety of proteins and fibre(lentils, fish, eggs and red meat), carbohydrates (potatoes, injera), and a wide array of vegetables (chard or gomen, beetroot, carrots).
I have to say that as far as the quality of Ethiopian food goes in Nairobi, Habesha is hands-down, one of the best. To top it all off, the warmth and hospitality that Mr. Tolcha Mammo Gonfa, Habesha’s owner and his team had to offer leaves me humbled by the fact that restaurant proprietors still have a passion for what they do. Mr. Tolcha is one of those gentlemen that have made it his mission to bring a little taste of Ethiopia to our cosmopolitan city and do it well. This establishment has been around for over a decade and the fact that it won a Taste Award for Best Value for Money and countless accolades on international sites such as Trip Advisor means that it has a lot going for it. Habesha is a must for those who favour a little gastronomical adventure and its perfect for a quiet lunch and a Friday after-work haunt. Be prepared to hang about for a while – you’ll want to stay long after the injera and tibs is finished.
For more information on Habesha visit eatout.co.ke/habesha