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Dr. Susan’s Summer Experiment: Ethiopian Cuisine Blog #4

Ethiopian Summer Experiment-4

Saturday Night Supper: A Hit and a Miss

For our Saturday night dinner I planned a two-course meal; a main dish of fish tibs with fasoulia on the side.  Of these two courses on the plate, one was a solid hit, and one was—NOT.

I always like to start with good news, so I’ll begin by discussing our side vegetable.  I searched the web for a fasoulia recipe (Ethiopian green beans and carrots) and found an excellent one.  Here is the link, complete with a narrative and photos to go with it.

Perhaps you noticed that the word “fasoulia” is spelled 3 different ways in the paragraph and link above.  Apparently, the language of Ethiopian cuisine is no more standardized than Chaucer’s Middle English.   When conducting recipe searches, I have found that looking for variant spellings of these dishes yields more hits.

My Fasoulia

My own pre-cooking photo of fasoulia in the skillet is included.  It’s easy to make, very flavorful, and served hot or cold.  For what it’s worth, the tomato paste I used was the gourmet kind that comes in a tube.  As summer gardens start coming in, I look forward to serving this excellent side dish again.

Now for the less than fantastic report.  Inevitably, every kitchen experimenter runs up against the first big flop.  Tonight it was my turn.

And Then This Fish Happened

I like to serve fish at least twice a week, but there are no fish recipes included in my beginner’s cookbook.   I had to go searching for a Yasa Tibs (Ethiopian Sauteed Fish) recipe, found one that sounded delicious, and was eager to try it.   As you can see from the photographs, it looks beautiful in the skillet, and I was all primed for a fantastic fish dinner.


This recipe for fish tibs may suit some tastes, but our household thought it was just plain awful.  Charlie took one bite and refused to eat any more of it.  I soldiered through and finished mine, but I am not eager to repeat the experience.  The dogs, who got the leftovers, are refusing comment.

I include the link to the recipe for one reason only; if anyone is reading this blog who has experience with Ethiopian cuisine I’d welcome your feedback about where this dish might have gone wrong.   This is the link!

My Thoughts

If I had to speculate on the most likely cause of my abysmal culinary failure, it would be a combination of a bad recipe paired with my  bad judgment.  The fish marinated for one full hour in the juice of 4 limes, which I dutifully squeezed by hand to yield 1/3 cup, and mixed with a small dose of berbere.  At the end of the hour, the directions called for adding the fish chunks with the marinade to the ginger, garlic, and spices in the skillet.  I thought it rather unusual to include the marinade in the cooking liquid, but despite my doubts, I followed the recipe to the letter.  In hindsight, I realize I should have listened to my gut, discarded the marinade, and cooked the fish without it.

In addition to that one major problem, a few other possible contributing factors emerged in my reflections:

  1. Since the recipe is in metric measurements, I considered the possibility of a conversion error. After careful verification using a reliable conversion table, that possibility can be decisively ruled out.
  2. I have no idea what “blue eye cod” is, so I substituted Alaskan cod, a mild-flavored, sturdy fish and the only kind of cod I can get around here. It could be that blue eye cod has a very different texture or flavor more suited to the recipe.
  3. I did not have fish stock, so I used ¼ cup of plain water in its place. I can’t imagine how that would have made much of a difference.

Ultimately, I guess I’ll never know whether my “post mortem” speculations are correct because I guarantee I’ll NEVER make this recipe again.  Next time I want Alaskan cod, I’ll go to a favorite local restaurant and order some beer-battered fish and chips!


Dr. Susan


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