Thursday, January 6, 2011

African Taste

When I was a teenager, fusion food - preferably stacked fusion food - was all the rage.  I had a signature dish, a shiitake mushroom and miso risotto I had gotten out of a Marie Claire cookbook (before Donna Hay who used to write those struck out on her own).  I was so proud of it but now I think so many friends must have choked down what in hindsight was a pretty disgusting combination.  I had a great idea to cook a lasagne of Asian vegetables - bok choy and enoki mushrooms layered with napoli sauce and cheese.  Thank God that never saw the light of day!  So suffice to say I approach "fusion food" with some caution.

African Taste and market 001

It is perhaps reflective of the amazing place Footscray is, that when I first saw African Taste open I thought, "Cool, another Ethiopian restaurant!" and thought no more about it.  There is much more here than meets the eye, though.  Rather than just straight Ethiopian or Eritrean, this bright and cheery restaurant has a number of "fusion" dishes on its menu, with flavours gleaned from the chef's native East Africa as well as Sudan and North Africa.

African Taste and market 006
Genfo African Fufu, $10.95

Fufu is apparently a kind of porridge or paste common across Africa and made from various flours, usually served in one large ball (perhaps like this Sudanese omnemia).  Instead of one large ball, though, these fufu gnocchi are small, made with toasted barley flour and served in a thick, rich, creamy sauce with a nice chilli kick and plenty of spice, particularly paprika.  They are so amazingly good!  They are just as light as traditional gnocchi but the barley flour gives a nuttiness to them and a slight graininess, which is more apparent as they cool down.  This sounds unappealing but trust me, you have to try this.  For a little extra you can add lamb, chicken or spinach & ricotta but I think they are fabulous as they are.  This is chef Ben's own special creation and it is a winner!

African fasting food
African Fasting Food, $14.95

Two days per week, Orthodox Christian Ethiopians "fast" or consume only 100% vegan food.  This was a sample platter of fasting food which included a simple, crunchy, tasty stir-fry of beans, onions and carrot, very spicy and therefore most excellent misir wat or red lentil dal, mild yellow split pea dal, tikil gomen or cabbage and carrot (I prefer more crunchy and less soft but it was still great) and what I know as dubba or slow-cooked pumpkin and eggplant cooked with berbere, traditional Ethiopian spice.  Everything was delicious and light on oil, which I prefer.  The Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants in Footscray vary vastly in the amount of oil used in the vegetarian dishes in particular and I much prefer the drier style as here.

Tibes, $12

This dish of tibes or small, tender lamb pieces in a rich berbere and tomato sauce was excellent.  The lamb had great flavour, was perfectly cooked and so flavoursome.  I also love the tibs that African Town in Nicholson Street make, which is cooked in butter but without a red sauce and with lots of chunky green chilli.

African Taste and market 008

Plenty of spongy injera was on hand to soak up all the delicious flavours.  The menu has plenty of other gems I am keen to try like the "cramped cauliflower", coated in a yellow seasoning and fried, and the "African enchilada" (available in both chicken and vegetarian).
African Taste interior

The couple who own and run African Taste, Ben and Sunny, are delightful - friendly, genuine and passionate.  The restaurant is tiny and the kitchen is just beyond a simple partition, but it was packed on a Monday night.  There are plans afoot to extend out the back and take on more staff.  Thank you Eileen and Phil for your original guest post that set the tastebuds a-watering, and to Deb who was happy to revisit and give me a tour of the menu!  I am keen to try their breakfast menu, particularly the "gourmet vegetarian pizza" at $7.  Pizza for breakfast - a much-loved Australian tradition on an African fusion menu.  How cool is that?!

African Taste on Urbanspoon
African Taste
124 Victoria Street, Seddon (map)
Phone: 9687 0560Hours: Wed - Mon 10am-9pm (til 10pm Fri & Sat) - closed Tues
NB $1.50 per meal surcharge after 7pm

Wheelchair Accessibility
Step to enter.


  1. Mmm mmmm... I remember the injeras we had before, such unusual piquant fluffiness! African cuisine remains very unfamiliar to me, I'll try more when I'm back!

  2. ha! I drove past this place the other week and was wandering what it was like! More westside gems to go to.

    I agree on your point with the oil. Also good to see the injera bread served separately.

  3. More African food to try. It is a cuisine that I have very little knowledge of.

  4. Hi Lauren, pleased to hear you got a chance to visit one of our favorites. We can't get enough of the African Fuil they serve for breakfast ($10). And it's true that you can't really compare this place to the 'average' African or Ethiopian restaurant. Cheers Simon

  5. Wow, Lauren, I'm intrigued by fufu! Next time I'm in Melb....

    Thanks so much for the post, feels more like a cultural adventure just reading it! Love it.

  6. Bryan, let's make it a date - and don't forget Lebanese pizza too! BTW, Coconut House is stalking me. I saw my sister yesterday and she said, "Oh I had the best laksa the other day." "Where?" "This place called Coconut House." MUST..... GO......

    Simon, Deb ( loved the ful too. Such a great restaurant - one of the rare ones I would be happy to go back to 10 times in a row just to eat my way through the whole menu.

    Adrian, Penny and Thang, you should definitely try them out. Sooo good and such friendly service.

  7. Went with a few friends tonight and had an absolutely beautiful meal! The African enchilada was very nice, and we also had the Fasting Food as well as the "gnocchi" and a seafood/rice dish---all were fabulous! The cramped cauliflower was yummy, and it was unbelievable how nice the African Taste salad was! Gotta go back again soon! :-)

  8. We went during the week, too. I wanted to try something different, but we were tired, so I went the Bennie flow of our "usual" - the lamb tibs and the AT salad. It was just perfect. The salad was even better than we recalled. It's a kick when you see a 10-year-old's eyes light up when a plate of green stuff arrives at the table. My son is a hipster! :)


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