Ethiopian Food in the Middle of Ilupeju
FOLLY: We've been asked a number of times about Ethiopian food in Lagos so I'm pretty glad we found this. I tried Ethiopian food a fe times while I was in university.
NOSA: Prior to Kaldi, I had zero experience with Ethiopian food. More or less lost my virginity at Kaldi.
FOLLY: In my first two years in college, I had a number of Ethiopian friends so they introduced it to me. Let me tell you now, I didn't like it then and I didn't like it now but I'll still tell you about it and you can visit and develop your own opinions.
NOSA: Kaldi House is really hard to find. No jokes. A selfish part of me wishes Kaldi was somewhere else (read: the island), but I appreciate the "you must come to me" thing they're going for. Kaldi House is carefully hidden in the Nigerian Foundries factory. The security guys even make sign in when you drive in. That's how "am i in the right place" it is.
From our little conversation with the owner (or I think she is), Kaldi has had a bit of a challenge getting their neighbors to adjust their palates so they had to split the menu a bit. One half is East African, while the other is a bit more accessible. Think "chicken and chips" when I say accessible. I don't really blame Kaldi, or the Nigerians. East African food has a very different flavor profile when compared to what we West Africans are used to. One of Folly's coworkers once said that Kenyan food tastes like they're eating for sustenance.
A bit harsh, but I understand the sentiment.
FOLLY: From our experiences in Nairobi and Zanzibar, East Africans make really good samosas, so naturally I went for that as a starter.
FOLLY: I knew damn well that the Ethiopian owners were too proud to serve the wretched samosas like the ones in the small chops pack and I was right. The samosas were stuffed with a rich masala spiced minced beef and served with a masala sauce.
NOSA: I suspect their "samosa hands" come from their Indian population. Unlike Nigeria, where the "expat community" in East Africa don't feel like they're in transit and they actually leave their mark. The Lebanese have been in Nigeria for eons and you can't really point out their significant influence on our culinary culture beyond shawarma. It's such a weird thing and I wish someone smarter would explain it to me.
FOLLY: Our second starter was the chapati roll. I had a lot of questions for our server and she struggled to answer.
NOSA: I mentioned earlier that Kaldi's Nigerian neighbours weren't too familiar with East African cuisine. You can extend that ignorance to the waitress too.
FOLLY: I wasn't backing down because I really needed someone to break down the menu for us so after my fifth question she goes "let me call the Ethiopian woman for you".
The Ethiopian lady knowing her audience had the perfect description for the chapati roll because she responded "it's like shawarma but with chapati"
NOSA: Lowkey, I was offended, but then again, I don't blame her because she probably had a zillion Nigerians come in and ask the same question.
FOLLY: Look at the picture. Did she lie?
FOLLY: For the un-initiated, chapati is an unleavened flat bread that's made with wheat flour and is a popular staple in India. It's also popular in East Africa.
NOSA: It's that Indian influence.
FOLLY: Most people are familiar with naan which is also an unleavened flat bread but that is made with white flour and rolled thinner than chapati. Now, if memory serves me correctly, this was my first time I had chapati. I found it to be a lot thicker than naan (almost as thick as a crepe) and also slightly sweet. Butter or ghee isn't typically one of the ingredients in chapati but I highly suspect a little bit was added to this because I definitely got some sweetness - not complaining because it was the perfect balance to the chicken filling which was moderately spiced and had a nice kick to it.
For our mains, we dove deep into the East African section of the menu.
FOLLY: We had the Nairobi Platter, which consists of Nyama Choma, Ugali, Sukuma Wiki and Kachumbari. That may not mean anything to you so let me break it down/translate.
- Nyama Choma = roasted meat.
- Ugali = maize meal, similar to ground rice/tuwo
- Sukuma Wiki = greens
- Kachumbari = tomato and onion salad (for some reason this was missing and replaced with the beans).
NOSA: It's not listed, but the chicken wings might be the best I've had in Lagos on a technical level. The meat on it was incredibly tender like it had been slow cooked for ages. Fall off the bone and everything. This isn't a quality that a lot of people appreciate judging by how we make chicken in the country, but I don't like fighting with my chicken so it's the one for me.
FOLLY: Now the roasted meat aka Nyama Choma was straight flames. It's basically the Kenyan version of suya but instead of being grilled on an open flame like we do. It's roasted and/or smoked which makes for a very tender and flavorful piece of meat.
NOSA: I wasn't particularly impressed unlike Folly. Like, it was wasn't THAAAT great. Decent, at best.
FOLLY: Chill, I was refering to the chicken and the meat as Nyama Choma but to clarify yes, the chicken > meat.
FOLLY: The maize meal didn't have any distinctive taste at all, it's one of those things that take on the flavor of what you eat it with, so Egusi or Efo Riro would have come in very handy here - lol.
NOSA: The texture is very much like eba. For something without any distinctive taste, I wonder why it isn't accompanies by something richer than just those greens.
FOLLY: Sustencance remember?
NOSA: Oh well.
We also got some Injera with Shiro because there was no way I'd drive all the way to Ilupeju without trying out injera.
FOLLY: Injera is incredibly sour - too sour for me.
NOSA: I was watching the Billions the other day and in one scene Taylor is at an Ethiopian spot with Axe and some Silicon Valley dude. Taylor goes on a little tangent about Ethiopian food and it's communal nature. Injera is usually served in a big "pan" with everyone digging in. Kinda like a pizza. According to Taylor, it's supposed to symbolize some sort of equality. Everyone has some skin in the injera game and you can see how much the next guy is eating. The process of eating injera is meant to be a very unique and transparent experience,
Billions anecdote aside, Injera is like the East African pancake, right?
FOLLY: Technically no, it's a sourdough-risen flatbread with a slightly spongy texture and is made with teff flour (a tiny round grain that is plentiful in Ethiopia). It can also be made with other grains like wheat, malt, barley. The injera dough is left to ferment for an extended period before it's cooked and so to me, ends up tasting a lot like beer.
NOSA: Like the tail end of a stout. I thought I hated it after my first bite, but it grew on me with subsequent bites. Making little rolls with it and nyama choma made a whole lot of difference.
FOLLY: You either like it or you don't. It's nothing like Nigerian food.
NOSA: I'll judge it on its technical merits. Everything tasted like it should taste (from what I googled) and while it might not be for me, they should get credit for that. I thought the lemonade was excellent, by the way.
Samosa - N1000
Chapati Roll- N1500
Nairobi Platter - N5000
Injera and Shiro - N1500
Not sure what it would look like on a weekday but on a Sunday we found parking very easily.