• Konjo (Footscray)

The scent of roasting coffee was malty, then smoky, then tart.  Freshly roasted beans, enticed the whole restaurant.  Our tummies rumbled at the thought of it.

Dad and I had decided to try Konjo after its write up in The Age (noted for being authentic and good value, with traditional coffee that takes 20 minutes to make but is oh-so-worth-it), and were up for an adventure to Africa on that afternoon.

My last experience with Ethiopian cuisine was in Paris – large plates with the yoghurt flat bread upon which different stewed veggies were piled.  Konjo was a similar experience but the bread was springier, the curries more flavoursome, the servings larger, the prices cheaper, the service friendlier and more down-to-earth.  The vegetable combination was a series of pulses: buttery and soft green lentils, earthy split peas, spicy split red lentils, and sweet cabbage.  It was hard to discern all the flavours put into each, and much better to just dig my hand in and enjoy.

Dad enjoyed his dishes so much that he became teary as I explained to the waitress how much he enjoyed it.  The staff were so lovely, relaxed and hospitable.  As friends, family and locals came in speaking in their tongue, we felt that we were travelling without leaving Melbourne.

I wondered about Ethiopian manners while eating.  My only experience of eating with the hands was in India, and I had learnt how to eat with the right hand only.  Apparently in Ethiopia it is the same, although there were not enough diners in eye view for me to copy their techniques.  It was clear that coffee is a ritual.  We ordered it first, but were not offered it until the end of our delicious meal.  It arrived in an earthenware pitcher with incense smoking into our faces.

According to Kwintessential:
  • The Kaffa province in Ethiopia is renowned for its coffee.
  • Coffee is a national drink and its drinking is a ritualized process that generally takes at least an hour.
  • If invited for a formal coffee you may be seated on pillows or grass and flower-strewn floor with frankincense burning in the background.
  • A woman or young boy enters the room to wash and roast the beans over charcoal.
  • The roasted beans are then hand-ground and added to boiling water.
  • Sugar is put into small cups without handles and the water/coffee mixture is added.
  • Inhale the aroma of the coffee before sipping.
  • The first round (called "awol") is served, starting with the eldest.
  • When the first cup is finished, the "jebena" (coffee pot) is refilled with water.
  • The second round (called "tona") is then served. It is weaker than the first since the same ground beans are used.
  • The third round (called "baraka") is served after boiling water is again added to the jebena.
  • Always sip the coffee slowly.
The coffee had a certain grittiness and was strong.  Neither of us were game to finish the filled pot despite enjoying it immensely.

The meal ended with us deciding we need to make more multi-culturalism in Melbourne.  One may not be able to travel the world every day, but being transported to another culture is easy.

87-89 Irving Street
Footscray 3011
03 9689 8185

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