Hello all you plant-based lovers! Today I’m taking it to Ethiopia. I’m spotlighting a couple from the Horn of Africa who have been tantalizing the taste buds of Madrileños for nearly a decade with their fantastic restaurants. I’ve been asking around and it seems that not many people are familiar with Ethiopian food, which is a shame because the cuisine is luscious and a terrific option for plant-based eaters. I think you all will enjoy reading about Nuria and Hanan; two delicious restaurants that serve up vegetarian and vegan Ethiopian food in Madrid.
The Story Behind Nuria and Hanan:
Ali and Shemisa are owners of two Ethiopian restaurants located in the city center; Nuria and Hanan, which are the namesakes of their two daughters. I had the pleasure of speaking with Shemisa this week and learned about their journey from Ethiopia to Spain over 25 years ago. Ali came first, Shemisa explained, with the formation of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia in 1991 Ali, who served in the military, found himself at odds politically with the country and made the decision to leave home. He came to Madrid in 1992 under political asylum and was followed by Shemsia one year later. They settled and had children, and in 2009 decided to open their own Ethiopian restaurant called Nuria, in Malasaña. They had a strong following, especially from young Spaniards and the expat community, and opened their second location, Hanan, in 2013 in Argüelles. Both restaurants have the same menu and price and although you can’t go wrong dining at either restaurant, my personal favorite was Hanan. I found the food to be slightly more flavorful.
If you’d like to learn more about Ali and Shemisa and their fascinating story, check out the video below. In Spanish.
What is Ethiopian Food?
Ethiopian food comes in an array of colors and textures and incorporates lentils, beans, and vegetables in its main dishes. It’s a savory cuisine that in many ways is comparable to Indian food in flavor and ingredients, and accommodates all diets including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. Dishes are served family style with spoonfuls of wot or stews, and are usually made with berbere; a signature Ethiopian red spice mixture that adds a kick of heat and flavor. No meal is complete without injera, a spongy, slightly sour, flatbread on which dollops of stews and other dishes are served. It may also come rolled up on the side of your dish, as seen in the picture below. Injera acts as your spoon, as it’s customary to eat Ethiopian food with your hands. Have no fear, just tear off a bit of injera, grab some wot, potato, vegetables, and anything else on your plate and then pop the whole thing into your mouth.
Popular Vegetarian and Vegan Dishes:
Ater Kik Wot – Yellow split pea stew
Atkilt Wot – Onion, carrot, potato, and tomato stew
Misir Wot – Red lentil stew
Shiro Wot – Ground chickpea stew with garlic, onion, tomato, and berbere
Gomen – Collard greens and spices
Beet Salad – A tangy mix of marinated beets, spices, and sometimes potatoes and carrots
Sambusa – A triangle-shaped fried savory pastry stuffed with lentils
Ayib – Fresh Ethiopian cottage cheese
Nuria and Hanan
Where: C/ Manuela Malasaña 6
Metro: San Bernardo
Where: C/ Ventura Rodríguez, 3
Metro: Ventura Rodríguez
Price: You can order and an individual dish, however, I suggest ordering the Vegetarian Special. It’s a sampler of their vegetarian dishes. Depending on the size of your party choose one of the following:
- The Vegetarian Special (for 1 person): 15€ and includes Ater Kik wot, Misir wot, Shiro wot, Gomen, salad and Ayib*
- The Vegetarian Special for two: 40€ and includes an appetizer + 2 Vegetarian Specials
- The Vegetarian Special for four: 74€ and includes 2 appetizers + 4 Vegetarian Specials
What else?: The vegetarian dishes are made fresh and without additives. Most of the legumes come straight from Ethiopia. If you’re feeling adventurous I recommend trying Tej, Ethiopian honey wine.
*If you’re vegan please inform the staff and they will exclude Ayib from your plate.
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Let us know how your Ethiopian experience goes!!