Ethiopian Food for the Win

After eating, sleeping, and breathing tacos for a few months, I thought it was time to venture out into the world and find a new food group to indulge in. Since moving to Chicago, I’ve heard the buzz about Ethiopian food, but have always stuck to what I’ve known when it comes to food (hence the tacos on tacos diet that I have). But last weekend I was feeling extra adventurous— perhaps due to the warm weather or maybe due to the fact that I’m in denial that I’m still in school.

So off I went with my roommate to Loyola ​territory to seek out an Ethiopian restaurant called Ras Dashen​. The restaurant is named after the tallest mountain in Ethiopia​, which Zenash Beyene, the chef and owner, used to live by back in her Ethiopian days. Ras Dashen has won many titles and awards by Zagat and Check Please, and is recommended by the Michelin guide.

If you don’t know much about Ethiopian food, one thing to note is that it’s spicy. Like burn-your-mouth-should-I-go-to-the-ER spicy. But then again that’s coming from me who once cried while eating the mild wings at Buffalo Wild Wings​ and then begged my waiter for milk, water and ice cubes because I thought my tongue was going to fall off. For a better point of reference, my roommate who can eat the mild wings without a problem and frequently has spicy salsa verde as a midnight snack, said that the food was spicy but in a flavorful, delicious way and was certainly not enough to deter him from eating it.

If you’re a wimp like me though, don’t worry! Ras Dashen​ had spicy options and regular items so everyone can be accommodated. Another thing to note about Ethiopian foods is that there are no utensils. You eat with your hands. Not exactly an ideal first date type of situation I would say. By the time I finished dinner I had basically put my hands all over the food…sorry roomie.

As the Ras Dashen menu explains, “A traditional Ethiopian meal is served on a round of injera ​and shared by everyone at the table. Each entree comes with a roll of injera to be used as your eating utensil. Injera is a sour, spongy bread made with teff, the indigenous Ethiopian grain.” Eating became an activity in itself. Trying to scoop up the food in the bread was not easy. We spied on other tables with seasoned professionals to help us get the technique down.

Overall, I had an enjoyable experience at Ras Dashen and will definitely be going back. Ethiopian food isn’t just delicious, but it’s fun. If you like spice order anything on the menu, but if you’re like me, ask the waiter for some more mild options.
 
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