Hot From The Kettle: Mesob

My first visit to Mesob was at the insistence of my vegan friend. My second, third, fourth, and fifth visits, however, were by my own craving.

Seven years ago, two sisters from Ethiopia, Berekti Mengistu and Akberet “Aki” Mengistu, opened Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant, at 515 Bloomfield Avenue, in Montclair. Berekti and Aki prepare and serve traditional Ethiopian food.

There is no item more ubiquitous in Ethiopian cuisine than the crepe-like, soft, spongy, slightly tangy, almost sour, and completely addictive flatbread, known as Injera. According to Berekti, Injera is unique and indigenous to Ethiopia and made no where else in Africa. Injera plays an essential role in Ethiopian table culture by encouraging, if not demanding, family style eating. At meal time, a large Injera is laid on a plate, while other preparations are placed on top of the Injera. Injera is both utensil and bread; to eat the food, one rips off a piece of Injera, uses it to pick up the food, and eats both together.

Want to take a peak inside the Ethiopian Kitchen? Watch the video to see Berekti make authentic Injera, and check out what else is cooking inside the Ethiopian kitchen. For extra footage, click here.

Here’s Berekti’s recipe for Injera:

2 Large bowls with lids
Small measuring cup
10-12 inch heavy nonstick flat or shallow skillet or nonstick frying pan; must have lids
Round rattan charger or placemat (minimum 14 inches in diameter)
Clean white cotton tablecloth

2 cups teff flour
11 cups cold water
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup wheat flour
1 cup barley flour
Pinch of fenugreek powder (optional)

Mix 2 cups of teff flour with 6 cups of water in a large bowl, using your fingers to break up any lumps. The batter should be smooth and almost runny. Cover and set aside.

The batter for Injera is very temperature sensitive. If the temperature in the house is hot, allow the batter to ferment for 2-3 days. If the temperature is mild, allow 5 days of fermentation. If the temperature is cold, allow 6 or more days for the batter to ferment. If the batter is not fermented well, the Injera may stick to the pan when you cook it. Check the batter after the 6th day: if all the water has risen to the top and is separated from the batter, then fermentation is complete. If the water has not separated, allow to ferment for another day and check again.

After the batter has fermented, in a separate bowl, mix together self-rising, wheat, and barley flours, and fenugreek powder with 5 cups of water, using your fingers to break up any lumps. Pour into the teff batter and mix well. Cover and set the batter aside at room temperature for 24 hours. Afterward, refrigerate for 4 hours. Drain off any water that has separated from the batter into a small measuring cup and set aside. Mix batter well – it should be smooth and runny. If the batter is too thick, use the drained water to make it thinner. If the water is not needed, discard.

Preheat skillet or frying pan until hot enough that water droplets sizzle on the surface. Stir the batter, and ladle one-half cup into the measuring cup. Start pouring the batter into the center of the skillet, and continue pouring in a circular motion until the batter covers the pan. Cook until bubbles or “eyes” cover 80% of the injera and cover for 30 seconds. Remove cover and check the injera; if the edges are curling, the injera is done. To remove injera from the skillet, carefully lift one edge and slide the charger or placemat underneath and pull the injera onto it. Carefully slide injera onto the tablecloth to cool.

Stir the batter well, and repeat the steps mentioned above for each injera until the batter is finished.

For leftover Injera, store in tightly closed container. At room temperature Injera can last up to 2 days but it is best to refrigerate it.

Making injera requires patience and may take a few tries before you get it right.

Note: The batter may have a fermented odor but this is part of the process.
For a less fermented or “sour” Injera, reduce the fermentation time from 5 days to 3 days. This type of injera is known as afleña injera. It is also good for people who have trouble digesting fully fermented Injera.

In honor of its Seventh Anniversary, Mesob has launched their first ever creative contest, the winner to be awarded a $25 gift certificate. The challenge is this: express your Ethiopian food experience in just 7 words. Entries can be in a creative sentence, or in a 2-3-2 catch phrase, here’s an example, “Eat meat. Or go vegan. Eat Ethiopian.” Entries can be submitted in person at Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant, or by e-mail to contest will run until Friday, October 29, 2010.

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  1. Jimmytown,
    That may be true, the menu is very high in proteins, even in the vegetable section.
    But I also have to mention that each time I’ve left Mesob, I have been extraordinarily full – – and completely satisfied.

  2. As someone who only first tried Ethiopian food about 5 yrs ago, I sometimes amuse myself when it irks me when someone makes any variation of the joke “Ethiopians actually eat?” Is so completely ignorant and missing out. Mesob is far and away one of my most favorite restaurants in ALL of NJ (and I grew up in GR) and I absolutely love taking people there whom have never tried Ethiopian. Jimmy “town”: I dare you to show up there as late as 9pm on a Friday without a reservation… See how long you wait… And just try and pretend u don’t like it…food is unbelievAble!!!

  3. @ Cdub,

    I’ve been there a few times. Not by choice. It seams that my friends from other towns flock to this “no utensils” restaurant as if it were Medival Times. Personally, I think the food is bland, the injera tastes like soap, and the wait staff is horrible. On two visits, the waitress spilled food on me. Once on my shirt, and the other time on my pants. She brought me “salt” to clean it. For $30 the portions are tiny. That which has no value is worthless to me. You can have your opinion, and I’m not telling people not to go. Some pallets are more refined than others I guess. Perhaps I don’t appreciate the culinary genius of Mesob, and that’s my loss. Fortunately there are plenty of restaurants in Montclair that I won’t starve

  4. Apparently, Jimmy has never enjoyed the joy of Ethiopian cuisine.

    I invite him to come and learn more on our Facebook Fan Page at, or follow us on twitter (@mesobnj), or see all of the wonderful video content and behind the scenes footage that this wonderful family and community has to share.

    Mesob WELCOMES Jimmy to learn to love Ethiopian food any time!

  5. Thank you Vickie. Your restaurant is well established and like C-Dub$ said, Im sure it is packed on a Friday night. It’s just not for me, but I appreciate your invite and wish you well. I’ll try everything a few times before I write off a restaurant for good, and unfortunately for me, I cannot wrap my taste buds around your food

  6. Jimmy,

    Thank you for your response. We at Mesob are very sorry to hear that you have tried Ethiopian food and did not enjoy it. If bland is ever an issue, a server will gladly give you more berbere or mitmita, to kick it up to whatever notch you prefer. Just know that we have had complaints of the food being too spicy, and were unsure what you meant by “bland,” which is subjective. We were just surprised to read your opening comment to this piece that some might feel as “tasteless.”

    Mesob is trying very hard to learn about American culture and understand what is expected, opening up in social media to join the conversation.

    And the invitation is open any time for you, Jimmy.


  7. I love taking a friend to Mesob and getting the vegetarian sampler to share. You get more than enough food for 2 people (I like to take light eaters, so I get to eat more!), and it works out to maybe 16 bucks a person while you get to eat so many different delicious things. I’ve loved Ethiopian food for a long time, and was so glad to see Mesob when I moved to Montclair 6 years ago. My only complaint is that the service is perpetually slow, but if you go in there knowing that, and prepared to have a leisurely meal (definitely don’t be in a rush!), then it’s fine by me.

  8. Mesob is one of my favorite restaurants in Montclair. The food is delish (I never had a bad meal there), love their bread, and love the fact that you can eat without utensils! I always end up bringing half of my meal home.

    It always smells so nice in there and the the ambience is gorgeous. As far as the service, I think it depends what night you go

  9. Not sure Mesob would be for me, but I know a lot of people rave about it…Guess it’s a matter of taste..I’m more of a burger-at-the-bar Tierney’s type person; however, in the past, when I’ve tried something out of my comfort zone, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. So maybe I’ll give Mesob a try at some point.

  10. Having spent my first 30 years in the Washington, DC area, which seems to have been the initial location for Ethiopian food in the US, I’ve been joyfully eating this cuisine for many years. While I think the service at Mesob is terrific and the design of the space lovely, I can’t be as enthusiastic about the food. I agree that the food is less spicy than I am used to (or like) and I don’t think simply adding bebere is the answer. Also, I think that the prices are high and the portions small compared to what I’ve had in NYC. For my money, I’d just as soon schlep into New York and head to Meskareem or Queen of Sheba!

  11. I haven’t been to Mesob so I can’t comment on the restaurant however what is described here as “family style eating” is really communal eating with everyone dipping their Injera into the same bowl.Just not the way I like to eat. Also, I have found Injera to be pretty bland and would not think of it as being addictive.

  12. Mesob is one of my (and my husband’s) favorite restaurants. In fact, he proposed to me one night after a great dinner there. We’ve eaten there several times, and have always been more than satisfied. I’ve tried other Ethiopian Restaurants, and none compare to Mesob. We always share a vegetarian sampler (with guava juice, and sometimes with an appetizer), and while we have our favorite items, sometimes we mix it up. What’s also nice is that while he usually only loves hot, spicy food, I prefer more mild. We get to pick different heat levels, and the “mild” dishes are seasoned so expertly, that both of us are happy.

    It’s not “family style”, unless you get a sampler.

    I’ve been there plenty of times, and have found the entire staff to be sincerely friendly.

    The only complaint I can muster up is that on two occasions, they were out of halewa, a wonderful pistachio/sesame dessert that I look forward to all meal. It’s so delicious, that it’s no wonder they sell out.

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