Sunday, October 30, 2011

Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food – Review by Marika Collins

A few weeks ago, I asked if anyone would be interested in writing up Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food for the Vegan Cook-Zine Museum.  A few of you lovely folks volunteered to help (thank you!), but in the end I chose my friend Marika, because I love her work, and because we are real life bubs (thank you Vida Vegan).  To close out MoFo 2011 in high fashion, I'm posting Marika's submission.  Her pictures and writing are so lovely and sweet, they actually brought me to tears.  I hope you like them too.  After this post, I'll try to lay off the self-promotion for awhile, or at least until the Winter Holidays come around.  Or if you really want me to shut up, buy a zine!  Thanks again, Marika!

Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food, by Kittee Berns, is a handy, dandy, cheery recipe zine filled with tips, tricks, advice, artwork and all-around craftiness. Kittee, probably the most genuinely joyful person I know, is a friendly fixture of the vegan blog world, as well as one of the organizing whirlwinds behind Vegan MoFo, a founding member of, the creative force behind Cake Maker to the Stars and an Etsy store, and the author of the original Papa Tofu zine. Kittee takes her love for Ethiopian food to the max in her latest zine adventure and takes us along for the spicy ride.

The pages of this happy zine are infused with the friendly, creative energy and enthusiasm of the author herself. Kittee tells us everything we need to know to make a genuinely awesome Ethiopian spread, including a helpful rundown of all the requisite spices and ingredients needed to make a mad Ethiopian feast, advice on how to set up platters and estimating how many you'll need to accommodate a group, and menu recommendations to keep things varied and interesting. Kittee even explains how to add some Ethiopian flavour to familiar, everyday dishes anytime we might be in the mood for some spice, using her famous Mac 'n' Cheesie recipe as an example and providing before and after recipes to show how it's done. You'll find that in the Mixin' it Up! Section, speaking of which, chapters are divided as follows: hello!, Ethiopian Info, Essentials, Appetizers, Salads, Sides, Allecha Recipes (mild ginger/garlic stews), W'et Recipes (spicy red gravy stews), Mixin' it Up!, Leftovers and General Info.

Kittee tells us all about what she considers the "Holy Trinity" of Ethiopian cuisine: niter kibbeh (seasoned butter or oil), berbere (hot spice blend), and injera (Ethiopian style sourdough flatbread), and she provides recipes for all three. I followed Kittee's sage and easy instructions to make my own niter kibbeh and berbere (I made the spiced oil option), and because my silly supermarket was fresh out of the traditional teff flour I had to go off-zine to make my own injera using an alternative wheat-based recipe. I highly recommend that you make the niter kibbeh and berbere (or get store bought berbere if you can find it). They add such depth of flavour to the dishes, and lay the foundation for the layered taste explosion to come.

Armed with the basics (niter kibbeh, berbere, injera), I tackled an additional six dishes to assemble my Ethiopian feast: Ingudai T'ibs (sautéed mushrooms – a beautiful balance of spicy and sweet, and a gorgeous shot of colour), Ye'takelt Allecha (gingery mixed vegetables – not your average roasted casserole, these veggies have bite!), Keysir Allecha (Ethiopian style beets – a simple, mild, and dare I say, striking addition to your platter), Ye'kik Allecha (mild split pea purée – pretty in yellow, adds a seriously spicy kick to your plate), Ye'miser W'et Version I (red lentils in a spicy gravy – fragrant, sweet and mellow, this was a crowd favourite), Bakela Dinich W'et (soy curls and potatoes in a spicy gravy – saucy, hearty, sweetly spicy, and the first thing to disappear (note to self: why, oh why didn't I get a truckload of soy curls when I was in Portland for Vida Vegan Con 2011?! I used all I had to make this recipe and they are total awesomesauce).

Every dish we made was a complete hit, and every single one of them will be made again. I cried a little when the last of the Bakela Dinich W'et was gone. My previous Ethiopian cuisine experience had been limited to a single, through–the–roof–spicy restaurant visit. While I loved the ambiance, the company of friends, and the communal, friendly, eating with your hands aspect, the food itself was beyond too spicy for me. It was so spicy that I couldn't even taste the food. I remember eating a lot of salad and injera. But no more – Kittee has filled the Ethiopian food void in my life. Her creative dishes range from mild to spicy in the heat department, but nothing I tried was too spicy to take. I even forgot to make the salad. Best thing ever about making your own tasty Ethiopian food? You can control the heat, baby. So even though I went full throttle for these dishes, if I'm ever feeling a little spice meek in the future, I know I can just dial back the jalapeño.

The flavour profiles of Ethiopian cuisine are layered and complex, but the preparation is easy with Kittee's clearly written and well thought out recipes guiding you through. By the time I was done making all this delicious food I felt like I'd received an education in spices. Take on the recipes in this zine and your culinary efforts will be rewarded by a harmony of onions, garlic and ginger with a chorus of cinnamon and sweet paprika, and a cardamom, cumin and coriander refrain. Kittee's amazing little zine will make you an Ethiopian cuisine cooking master in no time. All hail Papa Tofu: he loves Ethiopian Food, and I do too.

Title: Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food
Author: Kittee Berns, 2011
Availability: You can get your copy here
Size: 6 1/2" X 8 1/2" / Stapled
Length: 86 pages
Collection: 38 recipes
5 Recipes to Intrigue: Ingudai T'ibs (sautéed mushrooms), Keysir Allecha (Ethiopian style beets), Ye'kik Allecha (mild split pea purée), Ye'miser W'et Version I (red lentils in a spicy gravy), Bakela Dinich W'et (soy curls and potatoes in a spicy gravy).
XGFXness: 100% gluten-free and vegan, with many soy-free options too.
Zine Wiki: Not listed


  1. What a great review of your zine! I can't wait to use my copy :)

  2. Everything looks so delicious, colorful, and fresh!

  3. What a great review. I love all of the pictures and now I really really need to start using your zine!

  4. Wonderful review with great photos. If I hadn't already got a copy at VVC, I'd order one now! Come to think of it, Papa Tofu Cooks Ethiopian would make a great holiday gift, and I know just who would like a copy!

  5. what a sweet review! PTLEF is such a great zine, Kittee!!

  6. tats a very lovely review.. nicely written and beautiful pictures! I think i might just get a copy! Great job Kittee!

    Richa @ Hobby And More

  7. Great review! The dishes look fantastic. Now that MoFo is over, I'm going to start hitting PTLEF hard.

  8. thanks, everyone. marika takes such amazing photos!

  9. We cooked our way through this zine for Thanksgiving dinner. It rocked our socks.

  10. Are there any more for order? I'm little late to this party, I know - but the food looks fabulous.

    1. hey psuke! there's one left, then i'll be restocking later this month.

  11. I guess your sold out by now? =( Any chance you are going to reprint or I can buy a copy from someone?


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