Tue, July 21, 2009
Lifestyle > Food & Drink

Taste of Africa

2009-07-21 06:29:43 GMT2009-07-21 14:29:43 (Beijing Time)  China Daily

Ras Ethiopia claims to be the only Ethiopian restaurant in China and offers patrons a taste of culture with every bite of authentic Ethiopian cuisine.

Guests enter to the scent of amber incense and fresh coffee brewed every night in elaborate ceremonies specific to the small African country, which guests are welcome to attend. Diners can sit at Western-style tables or opt for communal eating at a decorative hand-woven basket, called a mesob. Entres are served on a plate of Ethiopian injera bread and are typically eaten by tearing pieces of the spongy, flat bread and using the right hand fingers to scoop up the dishes.

Coming from a country with a large Muslim, Jewish and Orthodox-Christian population, all Ras Ethiopia's dishes are pork-free, and numerous vegan dishes are available as well. All entres, Ethiopian stews called We't, are served with injera bread or rice. Traditional appetizers, such as a meat- or vegetable-filled fried pastry called sambussa (20 yuan), are an excellent way to begin a meal. Diners looking for authentic Ethiopian should try the Doro We't (75 yuan), a dish of tender chicken legs and hard boiled eggs sauted in kibe herb butter and served in a hot, red-pepper sauce called berbere.

"If you were a special guest coming to my house, the Doro We't is what my mom would cook for you," says Daniele Bekele, who owns Ras Ethiopia with his wife Marlo Bekele.

Ras Ethiopia's friendly and experienced servers will help new patrons choose from a variety of exotic dishes. The Taste of Ethiopia (400 yuan) introduces patrons to a sample of 12 chef-selected entres and appetizers.

All spices used at the restaurant are shipped fresh from Ethiopia twice a week to create the genuine taste of dishes cooked by their Ethiopian chef. Dinner is also accompanied by music and extremely energetic Ethiopian dancers, who are skilled in the diverse dances of that nation's 82 tribes. Dancing begins around 7 pm and continues as long as there is a crowd.

Ras Ethiopia also offers a lunch buffet (48 yuan) Monday through Friday from 11:30 am to 2 pm. While dinners focus solely on Ethiopian food, lunch offers an ever-changing variety of Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese and Italian dishes, as well as fried rice, barbecue chicken, salads and fruits.

While the food and decor may be foreign, Ethiopian dining, an integral part of social life, offers a communal atmosphere that anyone can share.

"Meals in Ethiopia are when people share food and gossip," says Marlo. "It's all about unity."

7 Sanlitun Beilu, Chaoyang district, Beijing, 6468-6053


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