I have driven this stretch of Fairfax Avenue many times. The colorful markets, the lunch menus written in foreign characters and the combination of onion / garlic aromas have always caught my attention. I am not sure why I haven’t stop here before considering it is relatively close to my house.
Little Ethiopia started to gain fame in the early 1990s. The area is filled with Ethiopian businesses and restaurants, as well as a significant concentration of residents of Ethiopian and Eritrean ancestry.
The businesses are spread along only a block. However, there are enough reasons to visit more than one time. I don’t think you are going to be able to sample all the gastronomic offerings during one lunch or dinner!
The day of getting a taste of Little Ethiopia arrived. I am glad it did since various ingredients and cooking techniques took me back to Puerto Rico (unbelievable to see how much African influence there is in the island).
We decided to have lunch at Rosalind’s, a restaurant that serves Ethiopian, Ghanaian and Nigerian food. The low light, straw accents and multi-toned murals added character to the quiet place. I have read about Ethiopian food but have never tried it before. My husband decided for the fried rainbow trout as soon as he saw it on the menu. I ordered with the help of our delightful server.
For the appetizer, we ordered the Ghanaian yam balls. These were very different from what I was expecting (we have various yam concoctions in Puerto Rico but nothing like this). The word yam can refer to many tuberous roots and I couldn’t determine which one I tasted. Further research pointed to the white yam (what we call “batata blanca”). I should have known because of the sweet taste but the color fooled me. The yams are mixed with butter, corn flour, garlic powder, milk and breadcrumbs. These give the balls a caramel color and soft texture.
The yam balls came with pili pili sauce for dipping. This sauce is made with African bird’s eye chilies and it is also known as piri piri or peri peri. The combination of crushed chilies, onions, garlic, lemon juice, oregano, tarragon pickled in olive oil was to die for. The end result is very spicy but tolerable since we are not talking about mouth burning peppers. The sauce paired very well with the yam balls and with the rest of the food.
I ordered the awaze tibs which consist of beef marinated with awaze sauce cooked with tomatoes, onions and chilies. I was surprised when the server brought a huge plate covered with enjera bread and a big mound of the tibs in the center. The plate looked like a work of art since the meat was surrounded by green (collard greens sautéed with onions, peppers and garlic salt), red (red lentils cooked with herbed garlic and ginger) and yellow (or cabbage cooked with potatoes and carrots) mounds.
I received another plate full of enjera bread pieces folded like soft bath towels. To eat, you are supposed to grab the food with pieces of the bread (no cutlery should be involved). I felt an explosion of flavor every time I brought to my mouth the different dishes surrounded by the acid, sometimes bitter, bread.
My husband ordered the fish tibs. This is Ethiopian style whole fried rainbow trout. I am not sure how to describe this dish. Let’s just say this fish ruined the concept we had about fried fish in other restaurants (even the fried fish we love so much from a Chinese restaurant close to home). The fish was tender, juicy and flavorful. Even though this was a fried dish, there are very few oil residues. The magic of the dish is the crispy skin that even separates from the fish and has a pork cracklings texture. It was so delicious!
I am really excited about this experience and couldn’t wait to share. I can wait to sample more dishes and learn about African food. I hope there are enough descriptions in here to make you want to visit Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles or an Ethiopian restaurant near you. I believe this area will become a favorite since now on.
Have you tried Ethiopian food?