Friday, 12 March 2010 13:28

Washington DC: Dukem Restaurant

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Senedu Zewdie, one of the owners of Dukem Restaurant, serving traditional Ethiopian meal on top of injira bread. Senedu Zewdie, one of the owners of Dukem Restaurant, serving traditional Ethiopian meal on top of injira bread. MCCN photo by Monica Johnson
by Monica Johnson

If you want Ethiopian food, you might have to do a little searching to find it, but in Baltimore and Washington DC., there are at least two places to go to have your craving satisfied. Dukem Restarurant #1(Washington DC.) and Dukem Restaurant #2 (Baltimore, Maryland) are both owned and operated by the Zewdie family. Tefera Zewdie was the brainchild behind the now 13-year old Dukem Restaurant located on U Street in DC., and now at almost five years old, its downtown Baltimore location has carved out its own following.

dukem_meal2At Dukem, there is no compromise in relaying the culture and cuisine of Ethiopia. Senedu Zewdie, one of the owners at the Baltimore restaurant says, "I feel like we are the ambassador for Ethiopia in Baltimore." This is evidenced in the many pieces of artwork representing its history, tradition and folklore. It even shows up in the the pride shown by staff explaining all things Ethiopia to inquiring American ears. Perhaps it's that standard of representing country and culture well that leads to a request for silverware being turned into an Injira 101 class. Ethiopians eat their meals with this flat bread in lieu of using utensils. It's a communal setting where food is placed on the injira and the injira is torn and then used to pick up the food as well. "We cook our food the same way we cook back home...we didn't change anything to make it mild or make it Americanized, and a lot of people really appreciate it. That's the way we want to keep it." One bite of this tasty fare and you will most likely agree that it should indeed remain authentic.


dukem_fishThe menu is pleasing to the most carnivorous carnivore and the most vegetative vegetarians. There are fourteen vegetarian offerings including a delightfully refreshing tomato salad made with tomato, onion, jalapeño, fresh garlic and a top secret specially-made salad dressing. Dukem also offers spicy split lentil, cabbage, greens, plus fish lovers will enjoy a crispy, meaty, fried croaker, but watch out for the bones.

Beef, lamb, and chicken are aplenty and each meat has its own tender mouthwatering quality owed to marination in Ethiopian spices. Dukem serves beef and lamb tibs which are fried with onion, rosemary and jalapeño pepper and their self-named Kitro, is a combination of minced beef seasoned with onions, mitmita, cardamon and salt and served with homemade cottage cheese. They also serve a lamb and doro wot (lamb and chicken stew) served atop the injira as well.

coffee_with_senedu-1One item not to be missed is the Ethiopian spiced tea. Forego the soda, and taste the rich and full flavor of this incredible beverage bursting with spiciness. This alone is worth the trip. Also, if you happen to visit on Sundays get a real cultural lesson in coffee. Coffee is served, and it's not Seattle's best either. Senedu Zewdie beams as she speaks about coffee being discovered in Ethiopia, and she expands on the issue by showing a piece of artwork depicting the daily common practice of women gathering together enjoying coffee. Zewdie also shows off the coffee utensils used to roast, boil, brew and serve the coffee the traditional Ethiopian way. The paraphenalia includes small wooden or metal roasting pan, Jebena (coffee pot), and cini (small serving cups).

Dukem achieves a wonderful paradox in allowing their guest to enjoy a very intimate environment and also a very social one as well. The upstairs dining hall of the Baltimore establishment is preferable to achieve either intent. The restaurant is not only a very special place because of the culture and history it offers, but the uncompromising will of its owners to preserve the integrity of the cuisine and its accompanying experience.

Website: Dukem Restaurant (Menu)


Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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