Why You Should Try Al-Yusra’s Ethiopian Serving

  • on Mon, 16th July 2018 6:22 AM
Ethipian wat
Reading Time: 3 minutes

I can’t for the life of me tell the difference between Somali, Sudan, Ethiopian, Djibouti and Eritrean anjera-that’s assuming there’s any-save for the fact that this white (and sometimes brown) risen flatbread fills up the wide serving trays, tummies and the culinary identity of the horn of Africa.

As a slightly spongy fabric-like sour-dough bread, anjera-or its half-dozen variations-gets served with a considerably wide array of stews and vegetables.

Across the region accompaniments just like the anjeras vary, from wat (a stew or curry that can be made from chicken or beef)  in Ethiopia to sugar in Somalia and beef or goat stew in Kenya. 

As all foods go, the culinary is political given that besides geography, it’s probably the only thing most Arabs and Cushite have in common with Jews-and Kenyans, seeing that I’m seated here at Al Yusra trying to redeem my now second impression of anjera after a disastrous first attempt elsewhere somewhere else.

Anjera is a remarkably iron-rich meal given the mineral richness of the teff seeds and often comes in three different varieties. You could have sergegna anjera (mixed), the tekore anjera(black), or what I’m having which is known as nech anjera (white). Curiously, nearly all non-Ethiopian anjeras are made of white flour-which often is a mix of teff content and corn, wheat, rice or barley.

That makes sense though considering teff is slightly more expensive than most other flour alternatives. Traditionally anjera bread comes closest to the Indian appam, though it’s uniquely different in that the face that’s away from the pan develops spongy pores (can easily give one trypophobia) for scooping stew while the surface facing the pan remains flat.

Ethipian wat

Ethiopian wat, often well spiced goes down well with anjera. Photo: Glane23.

Typically, it takes an hour to mix up the cornmeal, sugar, dry yeast, water, and sorghum flour, after which it’s to the discretion of the chef to figure out how long it’ll take to ferment it to that tangy taste-usually ranging from hours to days.

Just like most breads within many culinary cultures-like naan, ugali, or chapati-anjera makes for a fantastic national dish often accompanied by a wide range of stews and salads as one may deem fit within his cultural or nutritional preferences.

Faruq, the erstwhile bubbly soul at Al Yusra armed with a ton and a half of a personality, enough to carry his massive frame, makes an apology regarding the intensity of the spices served up in the stew.

He serves up the flattened bread with lettuce, boiled meat, a little too bony goat stew, thick soup and a piece of boiled egg. 

‘It takes fermenting the dough for a couple of days to achieve that much needed mildly sour and salty taste.’ He says.

The sourness adds a culinary personality to the bread, assuming most cooks seek to achieve something more than just having a flat pancake version of ugali with its accompanying starchy-y taste.

Anjera is fetishized by some, opined as delicious by others and obviously rated nutritious across the board yet it ultimately divides opinion on whether it’s a great or whack meal. I’d term it a misunderstood meal keeping in line with Anthony Bourdain’s description of its country of origin. 

Curiously white-teff injera is higher status than red-teff injera, which is higher status than corn, sorghum, rice or barley anjera’s-see I didn’t know.

Stuffed up as the plate seems and delicious and nutritionally appealing as the serving goes, the Somali anjera doesn’t seem high up in their ranks of culinary anything. Shawarma, arosto, sabaayad, maraq digaag, suugo suqaar and a dozen other culinaries take up that mantle.

In keeping with contemporary servings, Al Yusra simply serves it white giving little ears to the culinary origins or rules of the recipe. That makes sense though considering it as a mainstreamed meal, taking to the long-winding process of preparing the starter (soaking), preparing the batter (3-day fermentation) and cooking the anjera (roughly an hour) would deem it impossible to make enough servings to make business sense. 

A single serving of the bread is more than enough for one person and preferably with a little more stew and salad, it can comfortably feed two people. The entire single serving goes for 500/= and takes more than 15 to twenty minutes to get to your table once you place your order. 

Anjera is fetishized by some, opined as delicious by others and obviously rated nutritious across the board yet it ultimately divides opinion on whether it’s a great or whack meal. I’d term it a misunderstood meal keeping in line with Anthony Bourdain’s description of its country of origin. 

 

Article Categories:
Nairobi

Leave a Reply