Rediscovering Ethiopian cuisine at Demera
October 12, 2012 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- The ingredients are sort of familiar, but it's the spices - as well as the eating technique - that can cause some confusion in Ethiopian restaurants. But at Demera - a lively, welcoming Ethiopian restaurant in Uptown - newcomers can test the waters with a traditional messob, or sampler platter.
"They get to try a little bit spicy, a little bit mild; veggie, lentil. They can have greens, spinach, beets and carrot, lamb, if they want to try small kitfo -steak tartar - they can have that," said Tigist Reda, the chef and owner of Demera.
That kitfo is usually served with a freshly-made cottage cheese, as is the doro wat - a traditional chicken stew, always served with a hard-boiled egg - that's embedded in a bracing sauce that begins with a mountain of chopped onions, which have to be slowly cooked down, until they're caramelized; spoonfuls of garlic are added, along with chili powder and berbere, an intensely-seasoned spice blend.
"Berbere is made from cayenne pepper; it has sun-dried onions, sun-dried garlic, cardamom, fenugreek. It has 10 other spices in it."
Milder options include yellow split peas, collards or spinach, as well as a hearty saute of wilted cabbage and carrots, seasoned with yellow-tinged tumeric. Sauteed beef or lamb, called tibs, can be ratched up or down, depending on your heat tolerance.
But the key to any Ethiopian meal is the injera. The spongy flatbread is made throughout the day, either wheat or gluten-free, and it serves as both a base for the savory items on your platter, as well as a vehicle for eating. You simply tear off a small piece, then place it on top of whatever looks good, squeeze it together, then pop it into your mouth. The slightly tangy, almost sourdough-like flavor is the perfect foil for spicy food.
"How it's made, will complement the spices in the food. It has a little bit of sourness to it, which brings the spices out of the food. So it's really important."
They also make an excellent honey tea to go with your meal, as well as roasting their own coffee in-house.
If you were ever looking for a lively way to dine with a group, Ethiopian is the way to go. Demera, by the way, is also convenient if you're going to see a show at the Aragon or The Riv.
4801 N. Broadway
restaurants, steve dolinsky
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