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November 19, 2008 at 2:57 PM

Ethiopia, injera and me: more on why Greater Seattle is an “ethnic”-food lover’s paradise

Sometimes, the greatest treasures are found right under your nose, you know what I mean? You don’t? Well, allow me to offer up Exhibit “A”:

I’ve been driving past this sign — posted on Highway 99, just south of the Aurora Village Costco — for more than two years, paying absolutely no attention. But when I drove by last week the word “enjera” (more commonly spelled injera) caught me eye, so I parked in front of this small Shoreline strip mall and went in to buy some:

Injera, for those of you unfamiliar with the word, is the pancake-like bread beloved by Ethiopians, who use it as both plate, utensil and staff of life. Or, as the owner/baker of Amy’s Merkato in the Central District told my friend and colleague Gary Davis in this delightful interview on KPLU radio, “You can’t live without this.” Amen!

Little did I know that at Lideta (19824 Aurora Avenue N.), they’d be baking it right there on the premises!

What’s more, while I was there, I watched as owner Legesse Kebede weighed out several pounds of beef for a customer. He explained that he brings the beef in fresh from Eastern Washington every Thursday. He hangs the side of steer in his walk-in refrigerator, slices and wraps the meat in his spotless commercial kitchen and sells it to his fellow Ethiopians — or anybody else willing to stop in before he sells out — usually by the weekend.

Translation? Today, a steer is being slaughtered somewhere over the mountains. Tomorrow it will be en route to Shoreline. And if I stop by Lideta Thursday evening for fresh beef, it could soon be simmering with berbere-spice in one of my Dutch ovens to be wrapped in a section of freshly made injera.

After looking around the shop, I was pleased to find they’re also selling East African spices; raw Ethiopian coffee beans; legumes and teff (the staple-grain of Ethiopia, ground and made into injera). And I was interested to note they also sell the electric crepe-makers used to make injera at home — if I were so inclined. But why bother when they’re doing such a great job here, where I can pay $6 for enough to feed an army?

“Hey! What’s in the bag?” said Nate, when I walked though the door with a stack of hubcap-sized rounds wrapped in plastic. He just about flipped when I told him I’d found an “injera store” right near our house. And I got the big thumbs up when I heated-up some leftover pork roast, garnished it with a spoonful of Trader Joe’s tomato chutney and served it to him for a snack. It looked so good that despite the fact I’d just eaten lunch, I made myself a little snack, too:

If you’re looking to get a real taste of Ethiopian food, the place to go is the Central District, where Ethiopian shops and restaurants (like Cafe Selam, reviewed here) are a dime a dozen. Me? I’m thrilled to have found Lideta in Shoreline, whose bread will make a perfect accompaniment to my family’s favorite Sri Lankan beef curry recipe, a fabulous side for swiping my over-easy eggs and another way in which I can continue to introduce my kid to the flavors of the world.

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