Monday, July 28, 2008

Baklava in Ethiopia? --More Food for Thought


My brother went out for Ethiopian food this past weekend. Being a sick and shut-in for the summer, I made him tell me every single thing he put in his mouth to appease my desire for some virtual masala in my life.

Everything sounded absolutely delicious and I swore I'd be heading to Dahlak Restaurant in West Philly as soon as possible. But here's the thing. My little brother mentioned that for dessert he ordered Baklava. I laughed. "Why Baklava at an Ethiopian restaurant?" thinking it was a random item to place on the menu. But my bro argued that Baklava in Ethiopia is not that much of a stretch given the proximity to the Middle East. Still I doubted. It just didn't sound right. Not that I'm an expert on Ethiopian food stuffs, but what I do know, doesn't seem very linked to Middle Eastern cuisine.

A quick internet search shows that indeed Baklava appears on many Ethiopian restaurant menus. But I can't find an explanation about how this sweet, flaky pastry made its way to Ethiopia. In what form and with what variations? Do Ethiopians eat a lot of Baklava in Ethiopia or is this an American perversion, like the Chinese fortune cookie?

Does anybody know? It's a meltingpot mystery I'd love to solve.

Peace.

13 comments:

Dave said...

Dahlak sounds more Eritrean rather than Ethiopian restaurant.

glamah16 said...

Hmmmm. I never noticed, but its been a while since I dined in a Ethiopian restaurant. I suspected it was an American pervesion.However if you google Ethiopian desserts , Bakalava is always listed even though dessert isnt a huge part of their culture. Im fascinated now.

campbele said...

When I was in Saudi Arabia, one of my favorite desserts was a delicious Egyptian bread pudding of which I cannot remember the name! There were foods from India, Turkey, and other parts of that region as well. We had cardammon coffee, dates, dates and dates, olives, feta, pita, couscous, lamb and so many other foods that could be Greek as easily as Moroccan or Saudi. I think there has been trade among these ancient cultures forever and the food gives evidence of that.

Edi

mamina said...

Dahlak is probably an Eritrean restaurant. With that said, baklaba is very commonly found in Ethiopia. I don't know how it got there but it's a very popular dessert. The version in Addis is different than the one found in the ME or US. It's swimming in syrup and has less nuts. Cheers.

Mimi said...

I believe this is the case because Baklava is a Greek dessert and there's been a lot of trading and connection between Greece and Ethiopia, by way of the
Middle East. Heck, the name "Ethiopia" is a Greek word for "sunburned face".In the beginning the country's name was Abyssinia.

Anonymous said...

though we don't have culture of dessert since it is sweet you can call it dessert.well it is originally from a rigion called HARAR in Ethiopia and that place had a lot of connection with Middle East(history says we used to even have a teritory in sud arabia soooooo) where baklava is famous and can be said it is originated. we have some more we took and customize the recipe like mushebek,halewa ..... but not common in Addis Ababa you can find it in DireDawa and HARAR zo and they test real good.I love them so much.Still you are not wrong for wondering disert in Ethiopian resaurant !!!! not common

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing about dessert: All cultures have sweet foods. Though many cultures lack the "savory meal followed by sweet dessert" formula that is customary to American society, many foreign-born restaurant owners will cater to American expectations by taking sweet snacks from their culture and putting them on the dessert menu. Sometimes they just use American desserts - I've been to a Senegalese restaurant serving peach cobbler, an Uzbek restaurant featuring hollowed orange shells stuffed with orange sorbet (directly from Trader Joe's, I suspect), and countless Asian or Latin American restaurants with the ubiquitous fried ice cream.

It wouldn't surprise me if baklava made its way into traditional Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisines, considering how far it traveled in other directions. The Silk Road and the Islamic trade networks of the Middle Ages spread a lot of ideas, including recipes, across a wide expanse of territory... Dahlak's sambussa appetizers are clearly related to the Middle Eastern sambusak and the Indian samosa.

Blessed said...

This is a very interesting comment.I dont know how us Ethiopians got in the habit of making and serving baklava, but rest assured it is widely popular. We like ours with more syrup. Funnily enough though I still have not found [in the US] a baklava thats as soft and almost naturally sweet as there is in Ethiopia. Even in the Ethiopian restaurants in the US. Needless to as we also add peanuts to ours, roasted. It's quite the delicacy there.

elena the parking lot! said...

I'm a first generation Ethiopian and baklava is very popular in Ethiopia especially in cafes that serve coffee and snacks. It might have entered Ethiopia through Eastern Africa's trade with the Middle East long ago along with many Arabic words used in the language.

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fiker ayalkem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fiker ayalkem said...

baklava is indeed famous in Ethiopia,(i am Ethiopian) and i believe it was because there were a lot of greeks leaving in the area called "harer" i thing there is a big neighborhood called "Greece camp" not many people know this but before Ethiopia included "harer"(back when Ethiopia was Abyssinia and only included some parts of modern Ethiopia),it was colonized by the Turkish ...and we all know the Turkish baklava :)