“Is it too spicy?”
The same question that my Eritrean in-laws ask me at each meal also is the first question the smiling young man asks me after I try his mother’s timtimo at the Indy Winter Farmers Market.
It’s not too spicy, and I buy a frozen quart of it to take home to my husband, who heats and eats it immediately.
A trip to Oak of Mamre, the restaurant that originated the (slightly) spicy lentil dish, is in order.
Michael Jackson’s tenor greets our gang as we enter a tiny, bright dining room with tinsel garlands for decor and space for only a few tables. Atop the corner table we choose is a laminated world map, ironically too old to show the hard-won border that now delineates Eritrea from Ethiopia.
Mehari Tekie came to Indiana in 2005 and opened the restaurant with his mom last October. His brother mans the Oak of Mamre booth at the farmers market.
Stews dominate East African cooking; lentils, chicken and lamb are most often the stars of the stews, and berbere (a heady, deep-orange mix of several spices) usually gives them punch and depth. We ask the owner to surprise us, to put together a platter of whatever she’d like us to try. (You can pick and choose entrees, sure, and they run from about $8 to $15.) She brings eight different dishes and a small green salad for each of us — everything atop injera, the slightly sour, spongy bread that is starch and utensil in one.
We eagerly devoured zgnee durho, a spicy red chicken stew with whole hard-boiled eggs, and its beef counterpart. The lentil, spinach and cabbage dishes didn’t last long, either.
I have a particular weakness for injera fitfit — torn pieces of spongy bread mixed with clarified butter — and berbere, and the version at Oak of Mamre was particularly addictive. Scoop it up with a bit of plain yogurt or with adjobo, the crumbly buttermilk cheese piled in the tray’s center.
Oak of Mamre takes only cash, and it’s a good plan to come when you have time to linger. If you’re truly a person of leisure, stay for coffee, which is roasted on the spot and brewed strong.
Keep “ta-oom” on the tip of your tongue and then impress your hosts when you tell them, “delicious, delicious.”
Oak of Mamre
Where: 28 E. 14th St.
Hours: 11.a.m. to 2.p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 4 to 8.p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Info: (317) 423-3958.
Flavors jump out at East African eatery
Traci CumbaySpecial to Metromix
March 5, 2010
“Is it too spicy?”