Gursha is an authentic Ethiopian restaurant in Blacktown. There you'll find injera bread topped with a range of meat and vegetable stews that you eat with your hands and a wonderful Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony.
The temperature climbs are we get closer to Blacktown. "Where are we?" I ask Laura. "I don't know...Seven Hills!" she says pointing at the shopping centre bearing the suburb's name. "Do you think Seven Hills has 7 hills?" she asks looking around for a septuple of hills.
We are headed to Blacktown on this very warm spring day to try Ethiopian food at Gursha. It's Laura's first time eating Ethiopian and she's also the one that suggested it. I love the Ethiopian food that I have tried at Aaboll and Alem's although sadly Aaboll which was my favourite has closed.
The horizon ripples from the heat as we get out of the car. Gursha is located in a multi cultural area on Main Street in Blacktown with African, Turkish, Sudanese and Filipino shops catering for the local clientele. Gursha's clientele is mainly Ethiopian except for our table and another family table. The couple that own Gursha are Rahel Woldearegay and Yibeltal Tsegaw she's the chef and he is front of house, respectively. They arrived in Australia in 2002. Inside is air conditioned but we prefer the table outside as it is a warm, sunny day. They also sell the coffee pots, clothing and spices inside the restaurant too.
If you're new to Ethiopian food, the main event is served on Injera bread, an enormous holey, spongey pancake made of fermented Teff flour that gives it its milky pinky purple shade. It is then topped with a variety of meat or vegetable toppings (Ethiopian is also very vegan friendly cuisine). You eat with your right or dominant hand and use some of the injera bread that is rolled up to scoop up the food and place it in your mouth and you can also eat the injera bread on the base. It is common practice to feed other people and this role is called Gursha.
Yibeltal explains a bit more, "Mostly we make stews curry type foods filled with crazy mix of spices. One of the main ingredients spice is a spice called Berbere, it's an Ethiopian home made pepper. Also Ethiopian butter and mitmita are some of the unique ingredients in Ethiopian foods."
Ethiopian butter is a clarified butter that has been mixed with spices and herbs while Mita Mita is a spice mix made with African bird's eye chili peppers, Ethiopian cardamom and cloves.
Foull with felafel $15
We start with the foull or fava beans cooked with garlic, topped with fresh tomato onion, green chillies, cumin and feta cheese served with mountain bread (like pita bread). We add some super crunchy felafel to it which they crumble into the foull and it is very tasty. Usually foull can be quite a mild tasting dish but with the felafel, feta, spices and chilli this is very flavoursome.
Shekla Tibs $25
Along with our injera main we also order the Shekla Tibs. Shekla is the name of the coal heated clay cooking vessel that comes out smoking and sizzling hot. There are cubes of beef cooked with rosemary, onion and green pepper. The beef is tender and tasty as well as perfectly seasoned.
Meat combination $20 and vegetable combination $20
We wash our hands in the sink in the main restaurant in preparation for this hand delivered feast. The main dish comes out on a woven Gebeta and they lift the lid off to reveal the toppings. The three meat toppings are made with Ethiopian herbs and spices and are Doro Wot (chicken drumstick and boiled eggs stewed in red pepper sauce), Siga Wot (lean beef cooked in red pepper sauce seasoned with Ethiopian spices and herbs) and Alicha Wot (lean beef simmered with turmeric, garlic, onion, fresh green chillies and ginger).
The vegetarian selections are Misir Wot (red lentil stew in berber (Ethiopian red pepper) and fresh herbs), Shiro (pureed split peas cooked with onion, garlic and traditional spices, Ye Atklet Wot (cabbage, potato and carrot cooked with Ethiopian blend of herbs and spices) and Spinach cooked with onion, green chilli, herbs and spices. They're all delicious although of the meat options I love the doro wat the best and of the vegetarian, I really enjoy the spinach and Ye Atklet Wot the best. The vegetarian options also go well with a piece of the Shekla Tibs wrapped up in the mountain or injera bread.
Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony $12
We are sitting outside underneath a sign that reads "Don't drive if you don't drink our exotic coffee" that reminded me that I pre-ordered the traditional coffee ceremony because Laura loves coffee. They bring out a tray of coffee and popcorn with incense trailing behind. Ethiopian coffee is usually served with popcorn, peanuts or Himbasha sweet bread.
A man waiting for his coffee asks if he can take a seat outside on one of our 8 chairs (that's what happens when you order so much that you need 2 tables that come with 8 chairs) and he explains that coffee actually originally was discovered in the Ethiopia southwestern highlands in Kaffa 1000 years ago and that the Jebena coffee pots vary according to the region that they come from.
It's a strong coffee and wonderful in flavour with a touch of cardamom added to the brew. We sip the coffee and towards the end it becomes thicker and more intense. The incense adds to the feeling of faraway lands. "I feel like I'm overseas," I say sighing and sipping the coffee.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you tried much Ethiopian food? Did you know that coffee originated there?
This meal was independently paid for.
Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant
3/115 Main St, Blacktown NSW 2148
Wednesday to Monday 12–9pm
Phone: 0451 007 281