I’m a little high on spice and the pulsating rhythms of Ethiopian music as I tear off pieces of injera, a light, crepe-like sourdough flatbread. It’s a special sneak preview night at Addis Ethiopian Cuisine on Main Street in Springfield. Addis, the only Ethiopian restaurant in Lane County, opens to the public Saturday, Aug. 25.
I use the injera to sop up wot — a stew-like mix with aromatically seasoned meats, greens, lentils, split peas and more. You eat Ethiopian with your hands (right hand traditionally), sensually mixing it all together, sprinkling ayibe, a mild, crumbly cottage cheese on top to cut the heat, or add a little fresh lettuce to cool down.
Ethiopian food is meant to be served on platters and shared. Singe your fingertips on steaming, hot chicken or ground beef. You won’t mind. It’s all served on top of one large piece of injera, which soaks up all the flavors. So when you’re finished, you can eat your plate.
Ethiopian food is a little like tasting the push and pull of cultural confluence: it’s Indian-like. The presentation is a little Greek. It’s warm weather food, but also hearty. Ethiopian’s overall flavor profile, however— including the tastes of cinnamon, chili, cardamom, cumin and chili — is like nothing else. It’s a welcome reprieve from the excess of bar food we’re stuck with here in Eugene and Springfield.
There are also flavors of American history. Berbere, a combination of chili powder and other spices, is a sort of common ancestor of American chili. There’s collard greens. There are also ancestral echoes of barbeque. There are lots of vegetarian options. African cuisine in general, and Ethiopian specifically, is as much a part of the American experience as anything else. And on the speakers, the traditional sounds of Ethiopian music pick up a techno beat.
Addis Ethiopian Cuisine is located at 321 Main Street in Springfield. For more information, find them on Facebook.