With the meeting point at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park, people showed up not knowing where they were heading, what they were doing or even what the menu was for the night. The possibilities were endless seeing as the location was near the dried seafood stalls in Sai Ying Pun and just round the corner from the Macau Ferry Pier so we could have taken our foodies to the many top local places around for traditional Chinese food or even hopped on the ferry Macau bound. What no one expected however, was to be led on foot just around the corner to a warehouse stroke residential building on a quiet street of Sheung Wan.
The eerie lifts in the quiet building opened to reveal a residential door and on the other side stood Helina, our host for the evening. We were invited to her home where she and her partner Scott gave us the full Eat Ethio experience. If you saw our February issue last month, Helina was featured in our recipe section with five of her classic Ethiopian dishes. Helina launched her concept Eat Ethio last year and serves authentic Ethiopian food at pop-ups and at her home as a private kitchen. As expected, with the food, comes education and introduction to the whole culture so Helina was happy to share her stories and explain the history behind each dish, how it was made and more importantly, how to eat it.
We were welcomed with a traditional homebrew honey drink infused with ginger to whet our palates for the delights of the evening while we took in the beauty of the space. The open kitchen looks over a charmingly decorated living room and it created a nice environment to talk to the chef while she was prepping for dinner. First came a selection of fresh vegetables and dips of flaxseed, which had a great nutty aroma and a spicy berbere dip.
The kind folks from Jebsen Fine Wines curated a couple of wines to go with the food and were careful enough to pick a smooth Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Mia and a full-bodied yet subtle red from France. The Chateau Romefort wasn’t too fruity or dry and was a nice balance from sweetness as any strong wine would have overpowered the Ethiopian spices in the menu.
What followed for the evening was an array of dishes of yellow split pea stew, which was a rounded dhal-like dish with a sweet and wholesome flavour, cooked vibrant beets, red split lentils and homemade bread followed by a tuna sashimi dish paired with fried kale and cheese. The kale was seasoned with an Ethiopian spice blend and usually served with steak tartare but was replaced by tuna on the night and paired with a homemade ayib cheese, the whole dish was smooth and light with a subtle spicy kick.
The last savoury dish was a hearty berbere spiced chicken stew that we ate with traditional sour injera bread. Fermented for a few days before cooking, the injera bread is cooked in a pan and is almost pancake like but with a distinct spongey texture, perfect for mopping up the stew. For most people, the entire experience was new and exciting to explore, which is rare to find even in our group of well-travelled and multicultural foodies.
The piece de resistance of the menu was certainly the clever mix of popcorn ice cream affogato made with Ehtiopian coffee beans, of course, that Helina roasts, grinds and steeps by hand. The cream was steeped in popcorn overnight before being churned so the result was a smooth ice cream with perfectly infused flavour without comprising with texture. Paired with the light and nutty coffee, it was a genius of a dessert that left us going for seconds.
Everything from the welcome reception we got into Helina and Scott’s home, to the travel photos they projected on their walls and Ethiopian jazz playing in the background and wonderful food made the evening an unforgettable experience that inspired us all to pack our bags and get the first flight out to explore the delights of Ethiopia.