I Can Eat 50 Eggs: Taste of Ethiopia

In honor of Paul Newman and “Cool Hand Luke,” I’ll review 50 days of eggs from 50 different restaurants.
Day 18: Taste of Ethiopia
1100 Grand Avenue Parkway, Pflugerville. 251-4053, www.tasteofethiopiaaustin.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 01.18.12
In a strip center next to a nail salon and a pizza+Asian restaurant, Taste of Ethiopia is a taste of the unexpected in Pflugerville. The walls glow with warm ochre and painted sunflowers gild the windows. On the patio, the ceiling and columns are braced with blond bamboo. Folk art murals show scenes of village life and smiling children, and every table holds a wide and low conical-topped basket that sets the stage for the Ethiopian dining experience. When I came in, a buffet table steamed with lunch dishes for $9.99, but I knew from a review in 2009 that nothing beats the full menu experience here, a luxury available all day.
Doro wot ($13.45) is a ritual that begins tableside in large and small bowls. One carries the heart of the dish: two chicken drumsticks and a hard-boiled egg simmered in a red berbere chile sauce laced with onions. Its flavor falls somewhere in the spice rainbow between the low smoky heat of guajillo pepper and the brighter twang of curry. It engulfs and suffuses the chicken, so tender on the bone without turning soggy. The red oil dyes the egg’s surface a sunrise orange, and it’s scored to let the sauce work through to the yolk.
The meat and egg come together like a collective life force, but it’s Woinee Mariam who brings the dish to life. She and her husband, Solomon Hailu, started Taste of Ethiopia in 2008. First she lays out a wide plate covered by a slightly sour round bread called injera. In texture, it’s like a crepe pocked with air bubbles, and Mariam builds the dish on top of it a spoonful at a time.
For an extra charge, you can supplement that dish with smaller bowls of vegetables: lentils stewed in red berbere sauce (missir wot), or cabbage and potatoes in yellow turmeric (tikil gomen) or a stew of green beans, carrots and tomatoes called fesolia. A basket of rolled injera finishes the tableaux, and all that’s left is for you to tear off pieces of the injera in one of the few dining rooms where they won’t give you funny looks for eating with your fingers.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking) 
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