What is injera? Where to find the best of the Ethiopian dish

THE DISH

Injera, Ethiopia

PLATE UP

In Italy, you have pasta. In much of Asia and Central America, you have rice. In many other countries, you have bread. And in Ethiopia, you have injera. Injera is the staple food served with almost every Ethiopian meal, and though for some this mildly sour, porous pancake can be an acquired taste, for many more it is deeply cherished and hungrily devoured. Injera is made with flour from teff grains, which is mixed with water and then triggered into fermentation with ersho, a blend of yeasts and active bacteria. The mixture is then ladled onto a broad hotplate and cooked through like a spongy crepe. Several "wots", or spice-laden stews, both vegetable and meat, are then dumped on top, and you're ready to eat.

FIRST SERVE

There's evidence of teff grains being cultivated in Ethiopia as far back as 3350 BC, though the earliest "mitad" – the traditional round hotplate used to make injera – discovered dates to around AD 600. The true development of the dish can never be properly traced, though you can rely on there being a good couple of thousand years of history to this thing.

ORDER THERE

Injera is literally everywhere in Ethiopia – you cannot miss it. For a great introduction to it, however, as well as to many other Ethiopian cultural staples, try Yod Abyssinia in Addis Ababa.

ORDER HERE

In Sydney, enjoy a taste of Ethiopian cuisine at Jambo Jambo Ethiopian Restaurant (jambojamborestaurant.com.au) in Glebe. In Melbourne, head to Footscray and try Ras Dashen (rasdashenethiopianrestaurant.com).

ONE MORE THING

Injera is typically served communally, one large pancake with wots for a group of people who all eat with their hands, with the aid of more rolls of injera for scooping. In this way, injera acts as tablecloth, as eating utensil, and as the main dish. Perfection.