31 January 2024

Fekerte's Ethiopian is a Canberra institution

| Lucy Ridge
Fekerte stands next to her counter

Fekerte Tesfaye has been cooking Ethiopian food for Canberrans for nearly 30 years. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Fekerte’s Ethiopian in New Acton has something of a cult following in Canberra. The eponymous Fekerte Tesfaye and her husband Sendaba Gerba previously ran a restaurant in Dickson and a popular stall at the Old Bus Depot Markets before settling in the Nishi building five years ago.

It’s a slightly odd location with a long semi-sunken seating area tucked under an awning. It’s unlikely you’d stumble across it accidentally, but after many years in Canberra, Fekerte’s has a loyal customer base – and she is equally loyal to them.

“At first, I thought we would stay here [in New Acton] just six months maybe,” she told Region, “but I got attached to my customers!”

Bowl of Ethiopian food

My delicious lunch at Fekerte’s Ethiopian. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

While Canberrans are more familiar with Ethiopian food now than when Fekerte first started her stall at the Old Bus Depot Markets nearly 30 years ago, it’s still a relatively uncommon cuisine here. Fekerte explained that Ethiopian food is all about fresh flavours – there are no pre-made spice mixes or curry pastes. They make everything from scratch in-house. And while some of the dishes are spicy, the heat levels aren’t overwhelming and a lot of the flavour comes from ginger and garlic.

The other important element is slow cooking, which allows flavours to develop and for meats and lentils to become deliciously tender.

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Customers can choose from six different curries and have their meal served with rice or injera, a traditional flatbread. Traditionally made with gluten-free teff flour, Fekerte explained that she uses wheat flour because teff is difficult to source and expensive in Australia. The injera can also be used as a scoop if you want to eat with your hands.

“Injera is fermented, so it’s got a sour flavour which really complements the curries. I make it with a starter that I have been using for many years!”

Now open sign outside Fekertes Ethiopian.

Fekerte’s is tucked into a small space in the Nishi Building in New Acton. Photo: Lucy Ridge

On this occasion, I chose the kidney bean curry and chicken coconut curry, which were both delicious. The kidney beans had such a rich flavour, and the chicken was fall apart tender. I’m also a big fan of the green chilli and coriander sauce that Fekerte makes – perfect to add a bit of spice!

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Four of the six curries on offer are vegan, and in addition to the kidney beans, I’m also a big fan of the duba wat (pumpkin curry) and miser alicha (lentil curry). Fekerte says she’s always had a lot of vegetarian customers who have followed her to each new location.

Bowls of Ethiopian Food.

Like many Canberrans, I’ve been enjoying lunch from Fekerte’s Ethiopian for years. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

When Fekerte moved into this kitchen five years ago, she insisted on bringing the stove from her old restaurant: an extra-large custom-made six-burner stove to accommodate the volume of food she makes. This small shopfront punches well above its weight and Fekerte says she wishes she was 30 years old again!

Whether you’re a new customer or a loyal fan since the beginning, you’ll be welcomed at Fekerte’s like one of the family.

Fekertes is located at 2 Phillip Law Street, Acton, in the Nishi Building. They are open from 11.30 am to 3 pm from Tuesday to Friday.

Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.

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