It’s Enkutatash – Ethiopian New Year in Berkeley

    You know a radio station is worth listening to when it mentions the holidays of other cultures. It shows not only respect but a positive attitude: there should not be only bad news, and there should not be only news about Americans. Mudpie found out from KQED that today the MLK Civic Center Park in Berkeley was hosting the Enkutatash festival, the first day of Ethiopian New Year which usually marks the end of three months of heavy rain in Ethiopia. According to their calendar, the year 2003 will start next Saturday, September 11. But there’s no harm in having good food and fun a week earlier, especially when we have the long Labor Day weekend to stretch our legs. 🙂

    We arrived perhaps a little early, although it was an hour after the announced starting time. Most of the food tents (i.e. three out of four) were still setting up, the only one ready was selling ice cream (or was it sorbet?). In fact, an hour later as we were leaving, two of the four food tents were still in the preparing stage. Perhaps the Ethiopians eat lunch late.

    I’ve never had Ethiopian food, but I was looking forward to using bread to scoop meat and rice from a bread bowl – the efficient utensil-less meal described by the experienced Mudpie. Unfortunately, the most bread I could get was a glimpse of the injera (Ethiopian flat bread) stacked up on the side and balls of white dough waiting to be cooked.

    Luckily the chicken skewers were a few minutes away from being done and the fried plantain was ready to be scooped into plastic bowls.

    When I saw that a side order of ginger fried plantain cost 7 bucks, I thought that’s quite some pricy greased bananas. Then I saw the guy keep on scooping and for the first time in my life eating festival foods, I uttered “That’s a LOT!”.

    It was no joking side order. The bowl must contain at least three plantains (unless they are plantain giants), and the two of us just could NOT finish it. The pieces were irregular, the edges were crisply burnt and the innard was gooey sweet, perhaps a little too oily and too ripe. This fried plantain didn’t strike me as amazing as the salty fried plantain from Soleil’s African Kitchen, but if you like a light gingery note, it’s pretty good.

    And the grilled chicken was better.

    $8 a skewer, lots of juicy meat flavored Mediterranean-like. Would get seconds and thirds if not short on cash.

    Next year, if you wanna come and plan on eating kitfo, come at least 2 hours after the starting time and look around at the clothing and jewelry tents, they have some very nice looking dresses in green, yellow, and red. Or look at the wooden statues. Or get some henna tattoos. After you’re done shopping, the food might just be ready on time.

    Melkam Addis Amet! Happy Enkutatash!

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    2 comments to It’s Enkutatash – Ethiopian New Year in Berkeley

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