What’s on the WordCamp PDX Menu? Ethiopian Magic

Vegetarian combination, Injera

WordCamp PDX is excited to announce that Bete-Luka’s Ethiopian Restaurant will be serving up our lunch on Saturday, October 24.

Bete-Luka’s cuisine reaches deep into Ethiopian culture and history with a wide range of meat and vegetarian dishes to spice up your foodie soul.

According to their website:

Unlike the food of almost any other country, Ethiopian cuisine has grown in a vacuum, undiluted by outside forces. Its mountainous geography kept it largely isolated from its neighbors, and unlike other African countries, Ethiopia escaped European domination, except for a five-year Italian occupation/war with Italy. Only its position as a stop on ancient trade routes brought Ethiopia the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon, fenugreek, turmeric and other spices that are used so creatively.

Ethiopian food is served on centerpiece platters over injera, accompanied by plates of more injera, rolled up like so many dish towels. To eat, you simply tear off pieces of injera and scoop up bites of food.

Our traditional menu incorporates beef, lamb and chicken. And due to the Orthodox Church’s fasting seasons vegetarian dishes come in abundance and variety of flavors.

As many know, WordCamp is an international conference held in over 70 cities and regions annually, wherever WordPress users come together to learn from each other and expand their WordPress connections. Portland is an international port with ships arriving from around the globe bringing spices, foods, people, and cargo that infuses itself into the culture of the city it passes through. We’ve decided to bring that international flavor to WordCamp PDX.

The menu for WordCamp PDX will cover all food needs. Ethiopian food is typically gluten-free, and we will have food for vegans, vegetarians, and meat lovers.

NOTICE: Please note that if you haven’t set your food preferences or wish to change them or your t-shirt sizes, check your WordCamp PDX ticket confirmation email. Click the link to edit your choices and save them. Do it now. We will be closing that ability very shortly.

What You Need to Know About Eating Ethiopian Food

The first thing you need to know about eating Ethiopian food is that there is no silverware. You eat with your hands. So to speak.

The food is served with injera, a spongy, pancake style flatbread made from tef, a gluten-free grain indigenous to Ethiopia that is fermented, giving the bread a wonderful texture and flavor, much like sourdough.

The food is typically served on a platter covered by injera with the different meals looped around the edges and in the middle. Rolled injera comes with it to start the scooping process.

2005_9598 traditional food

You tear off a small section and use it to scoop up the food. Use the injera to scoop up all of the goodies, and if the goodies are sitting on more injera, that is the favored part of the meal after all the seasonings have soaked into it.

WARNING: In much of the northern African, Middle Eastern, and Indian areas of the world, eat only with your right hand. Hold your drinking glass with the left but never the food. Touching food with your left hand is a serious no-no. Why? To explain it nicely, they have a long history without toilet paper. 😉 Truth.

Ethiopian food tends to be family style, with multiple people eating from the same plates. Ethiopians are highly social people and they have crafted this sociable meal as an intimate and shared eating experience, perfect for WordCamp.

American tend to associate “spicy” with “hot.” The spices in Ethiopian food mixes some heat with taste, spices as old as history, ginger, basil, garlic, onions, bishop’s weed (like thyme), enset, cardamon, many blended into a curry-like sauce over meats and vegetables slowly cooked to infuse the spices into the food.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir, “Yes, Chef,” describes his native Ethiopian food and spices as:

…both masculine and feminine, shouting for attention and whispering at me to come closer. In one sniff it was bright and crisp; in the next, earthy and slow.

Several spices native to Ethiopia are commonly used in marinades and sauces. Berbere, a ground semi-spicy chili pepper, is mixed with as many as 25 herbs and spices including garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger, and fenugreek to create a curry. Mitmita resembles the familiar chili pepper and are hotter than berbere. These are blended together with cardamon seeds, cloves, and salt and used in meat dishes for an extra kick.

Veggie Combo

If you are familiar with Indian food, niter kibbeh is similar to ghee, a form of clarified butter infused with onions, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cumin, cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg, and turmeric. It is simmered for ages then strained for use on meats and stews. Many of the meat recipes call for simmering slowly for hours, sometimes even overnight.

For the vegan or vegetarian, due to the support by Ethiopian culture and restaurants of orthodox religious groups that restrict diets and fast regularly, Ethiopian food is ideal for you. Their Shiro (chickpea stew), Mesir Wat, Kik Alicha, and Kik Wat (bean stews), Gomen (simmered kale or collard greens), and Sils (tomato stew) are perfect choices, again, slow cooked and infused with those magical spices. On a personal note, the marinated beets are amazing.

Familiar with the food carts in Portland offering Ethiopian delights, you should know about Sambusas. Similar to egg rolls in shape and delivery, these are stuffed with meats or lentils and make a great food for walking the part or sitting alongside the Willamette River and crunching away.

Considering visiting Bete-Luka’s Ethiopian Restaurant at 2504 SE 50th Ave, Suite D, Portland OR 97206, on the second floor for dinner after 5PM, Tuesday through Sundays. You may call (503) 477-8778 for more information. They will take you on a holiday vacation for your mouth and stomach through their wonderful Ethiopian menu.

Before we all start drooling, here is more information on Ethiopian food and its history and recipes to help you prepare for this unique WordCamp lunch experience.

Credits: Images thanks to Flickr members and Wiki Commons

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