Here’s a reason to feel even better about that fistful of berbere-spiced stew from your local Ethiopian joint: The spongy injera bread it’s served on isn’t just an acceptable way to eat with your hands, it’s also a superfood.
Injera is a fermented bread traditionally made with teff, a gluten-free grain packed with so much calcium, iron, protein and amino acids that some call it the next quinoa. And with one of the nation’s largest Ethiopian communities, D.C. is hard at work bringing teff to the American diet.
The injera available in most local restaurants is actually made with a blend of whole wheat and teff, because the nutty North African staple is banned for export from Ethiopia to keep local prices down in the face of rising global demand. Domestic teff from Idaho goes for $65 for a 25-pound bag, about three times the cost of whole wheat.
Those in the know can get the all-teff stuff — which is flatter and tangier than the wheat blend — for a $2.50 premium at Zenebech Injera restaurant (608 T St. NW; 202-667-4700), which has supplied injera to area restaurants since 1993. Likewise, Meaza (5700 Columbia Pike, Falls Church; 703-820-2870, meazaethiopiancuisine.com) offers its homemade, 100-percent-teff injera, which will cost you $1 more than the half-flour version.
For teff to really take off, the domestic supply must go up so that prices fall, Zenebech Injera owner Gebrehanna Demissie says. “We need the American government to help develop it, because it’s good for the health,” he says.