OUR CHEF, ADANECH ASGHEDOM

If you are familiar with Ethiopian cuisine, you will quickly recognize Ada’s as “the real deal”: rich, flavorful meals seasoned to perfection with the finest spices available.  If you’ve never tried Ethiopian food before, be forewarned -- this experience may change your life.

The first thing you’ll learn about Ada is that she is driven by her passion for good food, though she became a cook quite unintentionally as a young girl in Addis Ababa.  Legend has it that one weekend, when it was her family’s turn to prepare the communal meal shared amongst neighbors, Ada’s mother became ill, and was unable to do the cooking.  Ada was summoned by her father, who looked at her, said, “You do it, Ada,” ... and she did.  The praise from her neighbors for the meal prepared by 14 year old Ada started the fire which still burns hot today.

A testament to Ada’s skills in the kitchen is how quickly she mastered Dominican fare, something she knew little about before opening Ada’s Latin Flavor in Long Branch nine years ago.  Ada had dreams, even then, about opening a place in the Asbury Park area, but, unable to find a suitable location, settled into a tiny space in Long Branch.  The previous tenants had operated a Dominican restaurant there, and although she had hoped to go full-on Ethiopian in that location, Ada realized that it would serve her business and community better to continue with the Dominican menu, supplemented a few nights a week by Ethiopian meals.  The fact that she knew not one thing about Dominican food was no deterrent: Ada taught herself to cook Dominican recipes, and the results have been spectacular.

Fans of Ada’s Latin Flavor menu will be relieved to know that many of those items will be offered at Ada's Gojjo, but the focus this time is on preparing what she knows best.  Ethiopian food is similar to Indian food, in that bread is used as a utensil to scoop up other food, and that vegetables are featured prominently on many menus. Ethiopian is filling and but light.  Although it is certainly possible to overeat when Ada is cooking (and you will want to, for sure), one never leaves her table with that heavy, groaning feeling so familiar to overeaters everywhere.

Ada selects only the freshest ingredients for her kitchen, even if that means sending relatives to Ethiopia and Eritrea to purchase spices and flours from Africa, where the quality, we are told, far surpasses what is available here.  That attention to quality is evident in the food, which comprises both vegan and meat dishes, seasoned with authentic Ethiopian spice blends, and often, ginger, turmeric and garlic. All of this is served on the Ethiopian bread known as injera. Injera is made from teff flour which is allowed to ferment for three days before use. The resulting bread more closely resembles a large, fluffy sourdough pancake ... and it is amazing.

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