Cultural and culinary traditions of Ethiopia are carried on in Boulder restaurant
Just to get one thing out of the way: Ras Kassa is not the name of the owner of Boulder’s only Ethiopian restaurant. Ras Kassa was a legendary 19th century king who united Ethiopian tribes — not dissimilarly to the way King Kamehaha unified the Hawaiian islands. He would recognize the foods and the way they are served and eaten in the 21st century Colorado restaurant that bears his name.
Eating the Ethiopian way is intimate and communal. We hadn’t been to Ras Kassa’s in quite some time, but were glad when houseguests whom we hosted during the Conference on World Affairs suggested we go there. On previous visits, the owner was also he hostess. She would welcome everyone by tearing off a bit of injera, a large sourdough flatbread, and feeding it to each guest upon being seated. This practice, called goorsha, is an act of friendship that didn’t happen this time. I don’t know whether not hand-feeding restauant customers is some kind of Boulder Health Department rule, whether gringo customers didn’t seem to like it or whether it is only done when the owner herself is greeting and seating guests, but if she was around, we didn’t see her.
The most common dishes are thick and often spicy vegetable and meat stews called wat. Combination dinners, either with meat or meatless, are popular at Ras Kassa’s. A selection of items is arranged on a tray along with rolled-up pices of injera. The tray covers the entire top of the small, low straw table called a mesob. Generall,y diners tear off pieces of this soft, spongy breads but at Ras Kassa’s, rolls of bread are on the tray. Ethiopians eat with their right hands,so diners use the bread to pick up bites of entrées and side dishes. We ordered one appetizer and one entrée that we four happily shared. It made a plentiful and satisfying meal. Photos appear on the next page, so
Price check: At dinner, entrées, $14 for vegetarian dishes and $15 for meat dishes; combinations, $15 per person for vegetarian and $18 for meats.