Ethiopian food is fun. You can eat with your hands, sop up the saucy meats and veggies served on injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread, and best of all, it’s a great shared family style meal. An Ethiopian restaurant is hard to find here in the 919, but tucked away in a shopping center in Cary is Awaze Ethiopian Eritrean Cuisine.
We visited Awaze on a weekday for dinner with another couple, and we ordered the Spring Rolls ($2.50 each), Meat Sampler ($17.99), Veggie Sampler ($16.99) and Awaze Tips ($14.99). This turned out to be gracious plenty for us, and I even got to bring leftovers home!
While I loved our meal, I would say the one thing I didn’t care for were the spring rolls. The flavor was ok, but the serving size was far too small for being priced at $2.50 each. In fact I was so hungry (not the restaurant’s fault), that I finished it in two small bites… and I forgot to take a picture of it.
The Meat Sampler included key wot, doro wot, beef alecha, gomen and ayibe. This is a perfect option for someone who has never had Ethiopian food, but it’s also a great choice for the indecisive…aka, me.
The key wot was boldly stewed in berbere, a spice mix made up of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, and many other spices I can’t even pronounce. It reminded me of a hearty chili made with beef tips instead of ground beef, minus the beans. I love both heavily spiced and spicy food, so I this was definitely one of my favorites.
Oddly enough, the beef alecha was described on the menu as: “lean chopped beef, onions, herbed in mild and distinctly flavorful sauce,” which is surprisingly similar to the key wot description, but it could not be any different! The beef alecha was sautéed with onions and peppers and lightly seasoned. This was probably the heftiest serving of the three meat dishes, and we enjoyed every last bit of it.
The doro wot is served in a similar sauce as the key wot, but instead of tender beef, it’s a drumstick. It’s really hard to splitsy a single drumstick four ways, especially when trying to take the meat off the bone with injera. This dish is definitely meant for those who prefer dark meat and aren’t afraid of sharing.
The Veggie Sampler is where it’s at. It features: misir, gomen, tikil gomen, kik alecha, misir azifa, string beans and carrots. Every dish was extremely flavorful and so uniquely spiced. The misir was spicy, and the tikil gomen comforting. I love cabbage, carrots and potatoes sautéed and steamed in turmeric, it reminds me of my dad. Honestly, each of these dishes were so meaty and satisfying, I never would’ve even missed the meat.
But we did have meat. Lots of meat, but we were concerned there wasn’t enough, so we also ordered the Awaze Tips not knowing better. We didn’t regret it. This dish was a tad on the oily side, but it was spicy, and fresh with tomatoes and peppers not overly stewed, and the beef was tender. Unlike the rest of the meal, this was not served on the injera, but it didn’t stop us from sopping the saucy goodness in the hot plate it was served in.
Awaze was such a treat. It was great fun to be able to try so many items by ordering the sampler platters. I loved sharing my dinner plate with friends and eating with my hands. I have no doubt the bold flavors and endless supply of injera will keep me coming back.
Christine Nguyen is a structural engineer working in downtown Raleigh. She is an alumna of NC State University and Virginia Tech where she was a member of the Food Science Club. Christine is an avid traveler, and a lover of good food and company. You can follow her on Instagram @atinywin.