HOW AUTHENTIC DO YOU WANT your Ethiopian cooking to be? You can get pretty close by stocking your kitchen with visits to a number of websites.
If you live in a city with an Ethiopian market, you can shop the old-fashioned way. To accompany my book Mesob Across America: Ethiopian Food in the U.S.A., I’ve created a website listing enat na abba (i.e., mom ‘n’ pop) Ethiopian markets around the country. They may be willing to ship stuff to you, but most of them really aren’t set up for that, so I wouldn’t count on it.
That leaves you with the option of shopping at sites that sell their goods online, and there are enough of them that you can buy spices, injera, and even a mitad to make your injera in big round pieces like the ones you get at Ethiopian restaurants. Of course, with injera, good luck getting it to turn out right! But that’s another matter altogether.
Here, then, is a roundup of some Ethiopian products that you can find online. I welcome notes from people who can point me toward more online companies that sell Ethiopian foods and supplies.
♦ Mereb. If you want to shop in Ethiopia, then this is the company that let’s you do it. Mereb is an Ethiopian version of Amazon.com, selling books, music, gift items – and food. You can buy shiro, berbere, bula, mekelesha, senafitch and all kinds of flours and other spices, shipped to you directly from Ethiopia. The site lets you search in English and Amharic, and the prices are good, although of course, shipping adds to the cost of any order. Mereb’s website has a link listing the various food items that the company offers. There’s also a link for cookbooks in Amharic and English. They offer good customer service, and they ship by registered mail, so you can track the shipment and sign for it when it arrives.
♦ Zelalem Injera. This company makes injera using a conveyor belt and a patented automated system. It’s the invention of an Ethiopian-born engineer who’s now a professor at the University of Idaho. The company has locations in Washington, D.C., and Dallas, and it ships nationwide. The injera gets to you in two days. And Zelalem now offers pure teff injera (orange label). In Ethiopia, people always make their injera with pure teff if they can get it and afford it rather than mixing other flours into the batter. Teff is a gluten-free grain, so this version of Zelalam Injera is suitable for people who are gluten-intolerant.
♦ Niat Products. Owned by Zekarias Tesfagabar, an Eritrean man, this Seattle-based company makes several products. Its mogogo – the Tigrinya word for mitad, or eelee in Afaan Oromo – allows you to make authentic injera at home, its menkeshkesh (or biret mitad in Amharic) roasts coffee beans, and its Fernello (from the Italian word for furnace) then lets you brew the roasted beans. You can see its full product lines at the company website, and now the company has begun to expand its distribution network, with retailer selling the mogogo in the Washington, D.C., area. Zekarias is also working on creating a rokobet, the rectangular table with drawers and a cabinet used for serving coffee at a ceremony.
♦ Wass Mitad. This newest mitad on the market is the work of Wassie Mulugeta, who owns Wass Ethiopian Restaurant in Hamilton, Ontario. The company’s website says the company obtained a patent in 2011 for an automated injera-making machine, and “our goal is to have this available to you by late 2013. We would love to share photos with you but we don’t want to give out our secrets.”
♦ Zeinco. This Canadian company makes a rekebot, which allow you to serve Ethiopian coffee in a more traditional way. There are two varieties: a “classic” and an “original” rekebot. It’s 16-inch surface allows you to make large pieces of injera and other crepe-like foods.
♦ Lefse Heritage Grill. Sold by Target.com and other online retailers, this product – made by a Swedish company – substitutes nicely for an authentic Ethiopian mitad, and many Ethiopian markets around the country sell it to people who want to make injera at home. Target doesn’t seem to sell it in stores, so you have to order it online.
♦ Spices. The easiest place to go online for spices is probably Ethiopianspices.com, which imports its products from Ethiopia. It offers a wide range of spices and other food products.
There’s also Authentic Ethiopian Cuisine, with a nice product line that includes niter kibbee (Ethiopian spiced butter), senafitch (Ethiopian mustard) and a variety of spices. The Minneapolis-based Shega Spices opened in 1996 making injera, but now it sells a wide variety of spices and spice blends.
Workinesh Spice Blends of St. Paul, Minn. (formerly of Kalamazoo, Mich.), is the oldest company in the U.S. selling Ethiopian spices. The company makes its own spices here in the U.S., all of them based on recipes by founder and namesake Workinesh Nega, who’s now retired (her daughter runs the company). But they have no website, so you’ll need to call: (852) 303-6710.
A number of non-Ethiopian spice companies also make berbere. I haven’t tried them, and I suspect they’re not quite like the stuff imported from Ethiopia. But they’re not too expensive, and they’re easy to buy, so you might as well give them a try. You can buy berbere online at Nirmala’s Kitchen, Zamouri Spices, Oyivo Exchange (selling Africa’s Finest brand), and Spice Bazaar. Tsom International Foods (tsom is Amharic for “fasting”) offers a selection of spices and sauces. And from Eleni’s Kitchen, you can buy kulet, a berbere-based simmer sauce for creating spicy Ethiopian dishes. Abet Baltina also makes kulet in mild and hot varieties.
♦ Mesey Ethiopian Vegetarian Stews. You’ll need to go to Toronto to taste the Ethiopian food made and sold by Meselech “Mesey” Abateneh, who prepares such popular dishes as misir wot, gomen, tikil gomen and more. You can only get them in a few farmers markets about Toronto – Withrow, Dufferin Grove, and Evergreen Brick Works – and all of her dishes are vegan. The markets are seasonal, so Mesey packs the food in glass jars. A mother of three, and full-time accountant, Mesey occasionally gives cooking lessons in Toronto and some day hopes to have her own store to sell her food.
♦ Brundo Ethiopian Market. Located in Oakland, Calif., Brundo has a small market and a big website from which you can buy gesho and a variety of Ethiopian spices. The market is affiliated with Café Colucci, the Ethiopian restaurant next door to it.
♦ Teff. Lots of markets now sell flour made of teff, the unique Ethiopian grain used to create authentic injera, and numerous farms in the United States now grow it. Still, if you can’t find any, might as well order from The Teff Co., the first company to grow it in the U.S. You can also order from Bob’s Red Mill. These are just two of numerous places that sell it online.
♦ Kolo. Ethiopia doesn’t have any desserts native to its cuisine, and for snacks between meals, or after a meal, Ethiopians often enjoy crunchy grains with coffee. Kolo is easy to make at home (see my Recipes page) and good to munch any time. Think of it as Ethiopian trail mix.
In Ethiopian markets around the country, you can buy various brands of commercially prepared kolo. Elsa Kolo, Wub (“beautiful”) Kolo and Dinsho Kolo (named for a city) are three brands that are now being imported from Ethiopia, and Addis Kolo is made by an Ethiopian-owned company in Woodbridge, Va., that also sells the product through its website.
University of Pittsburgh