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After learning that a steakhouse was up for sale in the upmarket Melville area of Johannesburg Ethopian born Samson Malugeta (who at the time was Africa bureau chief for the New York newspaper Newsday) promptly turned his back on journalism and bought it. But something was missing – specifically watt and injeera, the foods of his childhood. No longer. With fellow Ethiopian Wondu Tesfaye he has opened an upmarket Ethiopian restaurant called Abyssinica. Diners are presented with a R60 sampler: three or four meat stews (the watt) and three or four vegetable dishes, to be scooped up with bits of injeera. In Ethiopia, injeera, described as Ethiopian sour dough bread, is made from a grain called teff. At Abbysinica the teff is mixed with rice flour for a springy texture. The stews are chicken, lamb or beef; the vegetables are spinach, cabbage, lentils or mielies cooked with strong Ethiopian spices. If multicultural Johannesburg has developed a palate for Japanese food, Mexican food, and a host of other unusual styles of cuisine, why not Ethiopian? "Food is culturally transferable," says Malugeta, "in the way that, for example, Congolese music is loved by everybody."
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