Making Ethiopian food at home is a lot easier if your community has an Ethiopian gebeya (market). That's only likely to happen if you live in a big city.
But if you do have Ethiopian markets in your area, it may help to shop around.
Prices vary wildly from place to place. Berbere can cost $10 a pound at one market and $14 a pound at a market around the corner or across town. Many places sell imported niter kibbee: Made from the milk of Ethiopian cows, it's lighter in color and richer in flavor than kibbee made by Ethiopians in America. You'll pay around $22 a pound in most markets - unless you happen upon the one D.C. market that sells it for just $12 a pound.
Gesho once ranged from $13 at one Maryland market to $16.50 an another market right across the street. As the product becomes more precious and popular, prices have risen. But at these two competitors - one small and homey, one bigger and fancier - there's still a $3.50 difference in price between a pound of gesho stick. A few miles away, in D.C., another market sells it for an appealing $7.95 a pound.
And there's no consistency to these disparities. A market that sells kibbee for $22 a pound sells bula, or powdered enset, for $7.50. A few miles away, at another market, you can get kibbee for $12 a pound, but you'll pay $10.50 a pound for bula.
Ask the owners about this and they'll say a particular product is "hard to get." But that can't account for why one market brims with gesho and bula when the owner of another nearby market says he's out of both because of "the government," meaning that the Ethiopian bureaucracy makes it hard for them to be assured of a reliable supply of exported goods. Chances are the gesho-less fellow just isn't as good a businessman as his competitor, and that the grocers who charge more count on a loyal neighborhood customer base.
Some of these shops get their supplies directly from back home, which cuts out the wholesaler. Some order from supply companies in the U.S. owned by Ethiopian-American businessmen, like NTS Enterprises in Oakland, Calif., which leads to higher retail prices. And some just sell things for lower prices, surviving less on volume than on a more subsistence storefront (and possibly homefront).
If you have an Ethiopian restaurant in your town, you can probably buy some injera from the restaurant to use at your homemade Ethiopian feast. Most restaurants will sell take-out pieces for around $1.50 to $2 each. This is actually more than you'll pay for each piece of injera if you buy a 10-pack and have it shipped to you. But it may be more convenient to shop locally if you can.
If you're not lucky enough to live in a city with even one Ethiopian gebeya or restaurant, then you'll have to turn to the internet for authentic Ethiopian spices and injera. You'll have plenty of options.
Very few small Ethiopian markets will ship their food, although it's worth a try if you know of a market in your state or region. You can buy your berbere, shirro, gesho for making t'ej, and even some Ethiopian coffee from a market, although you might be able to find the coffee at a supermarket or specialty store in your town. Several American spice companies sell berbere, but most Ethiopian markets import theirs from back home.
A few new companies also make "authentic" Ethiopian food accompaniments in America: jars of kibbee, for example, and kulet, a berbere-spiced sauce for making wots. You can buy from these companies online as well, or you can find their products in Ethiopian grocery stores.
A neighborhood Ethiopian market probably won't ship injera, which takes special packaging. But several internet companies that sell injera also sell berbere, shirro and other spices and supplies, so you might be able to get everything from one place.
Here's a closer look at where you can buy these things online, along
with a few tips on Ethiopian markets in big cities. Shipping with the
online companies usually costs around $10 per parcel.
This innovative company (see Chapter 6 of Mesob Across America) ships from two locations, Dallas and D.C. For $10, you get two 10-piece packs of yellow label injera, or two seven-piece packs of green label injera, plus shipping. The green label variety has more whole grain flour in the recipe. The injera usually arrives in two days. Shipping by Fed Ex is about $10 more. This means you're paying $1 a piece for the injera.
Mama Fresh Injera
Sebeta, Ethiopia (southwest of Addis Ababa)
4167753 (land line), 1487359 (cell phone)
For the truly adventurous, you can try snaring some pure teff injera made in Ethiopia from the two companies listed above (see Chapter 6 of Mesob Across America for more about them). The pieces will be larger and thinner than injera made in the U.S., and the taste will be much heartier because it's made with 100% Ethiopian-grown teff.
Ethiogreen, located in Washington, D.C., imports injera from Ethiopia every Friday and distributes it in the greater Washington area under the brand name Yagerbet Injera (the name means "house of the earth"). If you're lucky enough to live in that area, or if you're planning a trip, contact the company, which only takes pre-orders. Mama Fresh produces injera in a factory, most of it for sale in Ethiopia, but also for export. In fact, Mama Fresh supplies injera to Ethiogreen.
Workinesh Spice Blends
3451 W. Burnsville Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55337
In business since 1978, Workinesh is the first American company to create original Ethiopian spices and sell them in the U.S. (see Chapter 10 of Mesob Across America). They stock two dozen spices, and they grind and mix their own berbere, shirro, mitmita and awaze, as well as a blend of spices to make kibbee. They also sell teff, grown for them in Oklahoma and Kansas, as well as injera. The company, which does not have a website, sells small quantities to individuals or large quantities to restaurants and markets.
This new company exports berbere and other spices - produced by local farmers in Ethiopia - and sells its products in sleek plastic oval-shaped jars. The company's brochure lists all of the spices used in its berbere along with information on the health benefits of each spice. Its product contains red pepper, garlic, cardamom, black pepper, ginger, cumin, rosemary, bishop's weed, lemon bush, basil, onion, cinnamon and rue, all of it powered and blended into berbere.
8936 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 204
Los Angeles, CA 90045
This company sells two types of injera: one made with a mix of teff and regular flours, and one made with pure teff. The company ships second-day air to minimize costs. You.ll pay about $20 for 10 pieces. At the site, click on the "Food & Beverage" link.
3315 Barstown Road
Louisville, KY 40218
Same offerings and same prices as African Market. This company ships UPS, and it'll get to you in two or three days.
500 Woodcroft Parkway
Durham, NC 27713
Again, same offerings as the other injera stores, although much more expensive for a package of 10. If you live in North Carolina, a field trip might be in order.
1009 Ingleside Ave.
Catonsville, MD 21228
(410) 689-8401, (301) 605-2531, (571) 265-5382
This online company - with locations in Baltimore, Silver Springs, Washington and Virginia - sells injera, berbere, teff, gesho and other Ethiopian foods and spices, as well as non-Ethiopian foods.
P.O. Box A
Caldwell, ID 83606
This company pioneered the growing of teff in America, and some of the other retail companies that sell teff under their own brand names buy their teff wholesale from Teffco. Many Ethiopian restaurants owners will simply tell you that they get their teff "from Idaho," meaning from this company, which sells teff under its own brand name, Maskal Teff.
These next two companies sell teff flour among their diverse product lines. You can probably find their teff at a specialty or health food store in your community:
Barry Farms Foods
20086 Mudsock Road
Wapakoneta, OH 45895
Bob's Red Mill
13521 SE Pheasant Court
Milwaukie, OR 97222
Finally, there are a number of spice companies that have created berbere blends among their diverse product lines. Zamouri Spices sells a blend (zamourispices.com, 866.329.5988); and Spice Bazaar has created a product it calls Ethiopian Hot Spice (spicebazaar.com, 800-30-SPICE). You can always try them, although it's just as easy to order authentic berbere online.
The websites of these two companies allow you to search and order online. Both are full-service Ethiopian markets that sell gesho, berbere and other items.
Brundo Ethiopian Spices
6419 Telegraph Ave.
Oakland, CA 94609
4485 Lawrenceville Highway # 201
Lilburn, GA 30047
Many companies in Ethiopia make organic teas, and at a good Ethiopian grocery in the U.S., you can buy loose tea or teabags of such brands as Addis, Abyssinia, Wush Wush, Gumaro, Black Lion, Tosign, Evergreen and more, many of them made by Ethio Agri-CEFT of Addis Ababa, and much of it grown on plantations in the temperate Ethiopian highlands, overseen by the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority. They're decent teas, nothing special or unique, just a nice accent to your Ethiopian dining adventure. So look for them when you shop for your other supplies.
But for something a little different, you can try two domestic blends of Ethiopian tea. GoJo Ethiopian Loose Leaf Spiced Tea is the creation of Sam Terfa, the owner of GoJo restaurant in Grand Rapid, Mich. It's a spicy, effervescent blend, and Sam isn't giving up the recipe. Across the state, in Ann Arbor, Mich., the pioneering Blue Nile restaurant makes its own Ethiopian tea, a sweat-tasting blend of orange peels, lemon peels, cloves, chamomile, rose hips, wood betony and cinnamon. Each restaurant sells the tea on the internet: Visit gojoethiopiancuisine.com or www.bluelnilemi.com to try some.
Some Ethiopian restaurants in the U.S. serve tea blends as well. Mesob in New Jersey grinds its own tea spices, and Lalibela in Tempe, Ariz., has four varieties on its menu: kootee, made with Ethiopian organic coffee leaves; yekemem shai (literally, "tea with spice"), a black tea with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, served hot or cold; tosign, an herbal tea, "great for colds and flu," the menu says; and koranti, a hot tea with "a splash of ouzo (show me your ID)." That last treat is sometimes called "electric tea," and the ouzo might well be areki, the Ethiopian version of the anise-laced inebriant.
Finally, if that's all too much trouble, you can easily make your own Ethiopian tea with ingredients available at any good local (non-Ethiopian) market. Get yourself some cloves, cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick and honey. Use an unflavored tea - black or green teas work nicely - then add a few cloves, a few cardamom pods, the cinnamon stick and honey to taste. If you like, you can add a pinch of nutmeg and a slice of fresh ginger. You may want to strain it after letting it steep to get some of the spices out of solution. This blend of spices, called ye'shai kemem (literally, "spice for tea"), is often sold in Ethiopian markets, although you may pay $14 to $17 a pound for it. So it's usually more economical to blend your own if you can buy the ingredients in small bulk quantities.
Any of these teas are excellent as well when served cold.
Authentic Ethiopian Cuisine LLC
This company's expanding product line now includes two types of niter kibbee in jars: a traditional blend, and a special blend for making kitfo. The company also sells sinefitch, an Ethiopian mustard blend.
2026 SE 48th Ave.
Hillsboro, OR 97123
Eleni Woldeyes is a young entrepreneur who bottles kulet, a simmer sauce made with berbere, onions, garlic, ginger, oil and other spices. It's a concentrated sauce to which you add water and your meat or vegetable of choice to make a spicy wot, and it comes in two varieties: mild or hot. You can order kulet online at her website, and it's sold at some markets around the country (the website tells you where). Eleni plans to add more Ethiopian products to her line as her business expands. A March 3, 2009, article in The New York Times on spicy sauces mentions her kulet.
Niat Products Inc.
This company, the work of inventor Zekarias Tesfagaber, sells an authentic Ethiopian-style mitad for making injera (see Chapter 6 of Mesob Across America). He calls his product a mogogo, the Tigrinya word for mitad. He also sell other stylish modern versions of Ethiopian utensils: the Fernello Single Burner to make coffee, and a menkeshkesh, a pan to roast the beans. You can shop for Niat's products online at its web site. NTS Enterprises, the Oakland, Calif., company, sells the Niat mitad in its 19th Street warehouse.
For a mitad, you can also shop online at Target.com and buy the Silverstone Heritage Lefse Grill. Ethiopian grocery stores in the Washington, D.C., area sell this item, and Ethiopians say it's a good facsimile of a mitad.
2680 Pomona Blvd.
Pomona, CA 91768
Ethiopians use a wide range of oils extracted from various native seeds, such as flax and noog (niger). This small California company sells various oils in handsomely packaged bottles. The company's noog oil, for example, has a label that presents the full Ethiopian alphabet as well as several paragraphs explaining the uses of the oil and the method of extracting it from the niger seed. Their bottles of product list no phone number, and the company seems to have no presence on the web.
Here's a quick look at buying your injera, gesho and spices over the counter at some Ethiopian markets in large American cities. In cities with large Ethiopian populations, you may be able to find supplies at convenience stores owned by Ethiopians, who will often have a shelf of Ethiopian foods to serve their community.
Boston. You can get injera, gesho and Ethiopian spices at South End Food Emporium, a specialty foods market owned by Ethiopians, 465 Columbus Ave., (617) 536-7171; and you can get injera at Family Injera, 195 Broadway in suburban Arlington, Mass., (781) 648-3705. In fact, South End Food Emporium sells Family Injera.
Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia. The greater Washington, D.C., area - which includes suburban Maryland and Virginia - has myriad markets. Two I recommend in the district: Addisu Gebeya, 2202 18th St. NW, (202) 986-6013; and Nile Market, 7815 Georgia Ave. NW, (202) 882-1130. In Maryland, there's Sheger Market, 912 East West Highway, Takoma Park , (301) 270-0200; or Tana Market, 623 Sligo Ave., Silver Spring, (301) 562-9322. In Virginia, visit any of the many markets at Skyline Plaza (see Chapter 11 of Mesob Across America), a strip mall on South George Mason Drive in Falls Church, and shop around if you go there for the best stuff at the best prices.
Columbus. Try either of these two: Enat Grocery, 1107 S. Hamilton Road, (614) 231-5140; or Selam Market, 4734 E. Main St., (614) 322-1185. There are several more sprinkled around the area.
Chicago. Just one option here, friendly little Kukulu Market, 6129 N. Broadway, (773) 262-3169. It'll have everything you need.
Minneapolis/St. Paul. There's Shabelle Grocery, 2325 E. Franklin Ave., (612) 333-1101; and Merkato African Grocery Store, 1900 University Avenue West, St. Paul, (651) 287-0183. Or you could buy directly from the Workinesh Spice Blends (see above).
Denver. You should be able to get what you need at Merkato Market, 7227 E. Colfax Ave., (303) 399-6116; or at Blue Nile Market, 868 S. Havana St., in suburban Aurora, (720) 579-0357.
Atlanta. You can choose from Merkato Market, 3300 Buford Highway NE, (404) 320-9777; Desta Ethiopian Kitchen, 3086 Briarcliff Road, (404) 929-0011, which also has a market; or Enat Café, 1999 Cheshire Bridge Road NE, (404) 685-9291, which has a market as well.
Dallas. Visit Maru Grocery, 8353 Park Lane, (214) 373-6278, where you can also buy fresh Zelalem Injera (see Chapter 6 of Mesob Across America).
Portland, Ore. There's Merkato Market, 2605 NE M.L King Jr. Blvd., (503) 331-9283; or Awash Market, 2322 NE M.L. King Blvd., (503) 281-0844.
Seattle. A cornucopia of options. Some of the restaurants have grocery stores with them. Or you could try Tana Market, 2518 E. Cherry St., (206) 322-3835; or Warka Grocery, 2800 E. Cherry St., (206) 325-1294.
Las Vegas. Try Merkato Ethiopian Market & Café, 855 E. Twain Ave., (702) 796-1231. Some of the city's other restaurants have markets as well.
Oakland, Calif. Many options here along Telegraph Avenue. The best-stocked place is Brundo (see above) at 6419 Telegraph Ave.
Los Angeles. Might as well just go to Little Ethiopia and shop at Merkato Market on Fairfax Avenue, (323) 935-1775, or check out its web site, www.ethiopianmerkato.com. There are also markets in Anaheim (Addis Market) and San Diego (Awash Market, Axum Market).