by Kristen Browning-Blas on April 1, 2010
Ask for a fork if you must, but the best way to capture the full flavor of Ethiopian food is to sop it up with torn-off pieces of injera, the spongy bread that serves as plate, napkin and utensil.
Chef Etage Asrat opened Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine in 2004, and still imports many of her spices from Addis Ababa, where she was born. She came to Fort Collins in 1991 with her husband and three young daughters, and earned a degree in computer science from Regis University.
Opening a restaurant was not in her life plan. But sharing food has always been. “My mom had a bed and breakfast back home. She was cooking for everyone,” says Asrat. “I see people here not sharing food, even mothers and daughters, and I say, ‘do you want to share my food?’ If I cook, I hope maybe they can share my culture.”
She shares her love of color, aroma and flavor in her brightly painted restaurant. The deep yellow and red walls come from the colors in the Ethiopian flag, and the scents of spices and coffee fill the air.
Ask for whatever you order to be served the traditional way, on an injera-lined platter. The entrees come with two sides from a list of four: gomen (tangy marinated collard greens), fosolia (green beans and carrots), yekik alicha (yellow split peas) or house salad of lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers with a spiced vinaigrette.
We liked the collards and split peas best with the yebeg wot, lamb marinated and stewed with onions, cardamom, ginger, red peppers and butter, and the engudai tibs, sauteed mushrooms marinated in Axumite red wine and served with a light red pepper sauce, onions, garlic, zucchini and carrots.
“We have a rich culture,” says Asrat. “We share everything, even with strangers.”
– NYALA ETHIOPIAN CUISINE –
Ethiopian. 2900 Harvard St., Fort Collins, 970-223-6734. 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; 5-9 p.m. daily. nyalafc.com
– Kristen Browing-Blas