Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine @ Fort Collins

When I traveled to Loveland, for obvious reasons I was constantly on the lookout for halal cuisine. Now halal cuisine, you can find none in Loveland, the closest place to get it is in Fort Collins.

As far as I know of, there were three eateries that were halal in Fort Collins. Bangkok Kitchen was one, but it no longer is after it changed owner and renamed to Cafe de Bangkok. Then there is another kebab place which I will write about in the future.

And then there is this restaurant, Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine.

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You guys know Ethiopia, right? Right?? Ethiopia is a country in East Africa. It is the first African country to embrace Christianity. There is a theory that the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia. In fact, they even have a Chapel of the Ark of the Covenant in this country.

Anyway, back to the restaurant. The first time we came here was in 2011. None of us have ever had African cuisine before, so we did not know what to expect. I found this restaurant online, where there were a bunch of positive reviews on how authentic and delicious the food here are. But as we all know, online reviews are good for nothing these days

So, we entered the place, and was greeted by a black woman. You see, I wanted to say African woman to avoid sounding racist, but there are so many black people in America and not all of them are African so if I say African, it would also appear racist, anyhow we can’t win against overly sensitive people. I did not ask if she is Ethiopian or even African, but let’s just assume that she is.

There are two types of seating arrangements which we can choose. The normal western setup, or traditional African setup.

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Traditional African seating

The traditional setup looked somewhat too small for us, so we took pictures of it, and then opted for a normal western table.

Let’s talk about the drinks. All of us ordered the Ethiopian Spiced Tea.

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It is very difficult for me to describe the taste. If you have ever had those Indian Chai Tea, this one’s a bit stronger in terms of the spice aroma.

Now let’s talk about the food. I find that they have a website with an extensive menu now (you can also find their location and contact number in the website by the way). But back then, the menu was rather simple. There were only a few different meat options, or a vegetarian option. You order based on which type of meat you want.

Once our orders were taken, we were immediately served this.

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Injera bread

Injera bread is a sourdough based flat bread which is sort of an Ethiopian staple. Everyone gets a plate of these.

We were so used to being served bread as appetizer while waiting for our orders to be executed in the kitchen, so we thought it was the same here. The bread was quite nice to be honest, so we tucked in happily.

Then our orders arrived. I ordered the lamb dish, but basically all of them looked more or less the same like below.

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So what’s in this plate of food? There’s lamb wot (stewed lamb with Ethiopian spices), gomen (marinated collard greens) and yekik alicha (yellow split peas), served on top of another piece of injera bread.

My first mouthful was NOT a pleasant experience. The meats were basically too strongly flavored with spices. At first I thought that maybe this is what Ethiopian cuisine is. And then I noticed our server’s chagrin as she spotted our empty plates of bread. She quickly served us more bread and explained to us how this works.

Basically, the bread served beneath all these food is the base that absorbs the gravy. Those plates of bread that we were served earlier, we were supposed to use them to wrap these food in to eat.

So we did as we were taught, and immediately it became better. The sourdough flatbread countered the heavy spices nicely, and I found myself beginning to enjoy the meal.

I wouldn’t say that it became one of my favorite cuisine though. I suppose Ethiopian spices are something of an acquired taste. I can handle it, but I suppose I didn’t leave the restaurant wanting more. It was alright though…

26 Comments

  1. I’ve never tried Ethiopian food before, like Marta, only Moroccan cuisine. Such cuisine is easy enough to find around the city here, though. This place you went to looks like one that is authentic, set up and all. Looks like a pretty filling meal with all that bread.

        • Very huge! But I think there are 3 main styles: northern, central and southern Africa. Hopefully I’ll get to try them all. 😀

  2. How exotic! That’s one cuisine I have not yet experienced. Your platter does not look attractive but from what you described – heavily spiced, I might like it.

    • To be honest, I was really underwhelmed when I looked at the plates of food served to us. But then, I guess that is how authentic African food looks like. If they look like fine dining stuff then it would be more the reason for suspicion, wouldn’t it?

  3. this is not the kind of food i’d prefer eating…it looks like all have been ‘blended’ (by a blender of course)…like those baby food?

    • Wonder if there is any African restaurant in Malaysia worth going. Maybe you can get the contact details of that African home cooking couple from TM Anay.

  4. I’ve never seen nor tried nor watched nor cooked African cuisine before, so this post tu kei interesting ha geh.. Ok, maybe I’ve watched one cooking show before, in Food Network, called Siba’s table.. I can imagine there’s naan and lamb.. Haha, yeah, agree about the bread.. Usually, we’ll munch and chew on the bread first (served with butter) while waiting for our mains..

    • No naan lo, the injera bread is nothing like naan, it is kind of soft and fluffy. I didn’t know Food Network has an African cooking show! Siba’s Table huh… let’s see if I can remember about it when I go back to KL again next time..

  5. Aha! The moment you guys tucked in the bread happily, I knew the mistake was made. Oh well, it was the captain’s problem for not introducing their culture of eating. Remember I went to try the food cooked by an African couple in KL, there is so much similarity with what you ate. They explained to me at great lengths about African food, staple and voodoo stuffs! The couple were from Tanzania and Nigeria.

    • I would’ve thought Nigerian cuisine would be quite different compared to Ethiopian cuisine, since one is east and one is west, but I guess not. Maybe they are all Central Africa and the food is similar. Or maybe it is just us non-Africans who cannot distinguish it, just like how foreigners cannot distinguish between Malaysian and Singaporean food! 😀

      • This is getting more interesting as I tried to recall back the hours of chat with the African hosts. They also told me the reasons why the whole Africa uses similar ingredients unlike in Malaysia where our food is sheer luxury to them >>> RICE !
        They cannot grow many things like us, so they revolve around same veggies, semolina and sourdough bread to wrap on all their dishes. The different countries in Africa would just present their food differently just like that bread which they had no time to bake but instead bought our closest sour pita bread to serve us. They told me the deadliest voodoos come from near Senegal.
        Once upon a time, I used to dine at one pricey restaurant Out Of Africa at PJ State area where their exotic food was great and blew my mind. The bill always blew my wallet too!

        http://twilightzone518.blogspot.com/2014/12/enjoy-african-food-in-kuala-lumpur.html

        • Yeah, I read this blog post of yours before. I suppose their explanation makes sense. I always thought Africa even though is made up of many countries, but is in fact one giant desert. Seems like the truth is not that far off too. We’re definitely the luckier bunch to be born in a region where food comes in great variety and abundance!

          I hope I do not need to learn or deal with voodoo stuff in my life, ever… 😐

  6. Ethiopian cuisine, now this is really something new.. i guess probably it takes you days or months to look for one in Malaysia?? so you are lucky to travel to many places and tasted different kinds of food.. so the sourdough bread are for wrapping the meat?? why didn’t they serve them with the meat together?? :p

    • To be honest, I would never think of looking for it in Malaysia. The only reason we went is because it is a halal restaurant.

      You asked a good question. They should’ve served the bread together with the main dish! 😛

  7. Your last sentence sounds like STP.

    No photo of the normal western setup? I like to eat sourdough bread so I can imagine it would taste very nice with the strongly spiced lamb. yellow split peas is dhall? collard greens in chinese is what vege?

    So you all went there to eat one time only?

    • Normal western setup, ma normal table and chairs lo. Nothing special…

      The peas, looked like dhal, but I’m not sure if they are the same. Collard greens, sort of like kai lan I think…

      Yeah, haha, we went one time only. 😛

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