It's only been a few days since I visited the Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood in search of a new Ethiopian eatery, and already I'm craving the rainbow's worth of vegetable and lentil stews I discovered.
It's not a hunger pang that can be quickly comforted. This isn't Los Angeles or New York City, where a growing selection of varied Ethiopian restaurants are recreating the country's best dishes. This is South Florida; another good restaurant of this kind is 50 miles north, tucked away in a sleepy residential West Palm Beach neighborhood.
Hollywood's Yellow Green Farmers Market has become a great spot to go in search of exotic, hard-to-find fare. The market is currently home to everything from a sit-down Indonesian and Moroccan restaurant to a Haitian eatery specializing in savory, meat-filled puff pastries — and, of course, this new Ethiopian restaurant.
The small stand specializing in the country's vegetable-centric dishes launched in August 2014 as South Florida Ethiopian Restaurant, where owner Derek Ford and his wife, Lewam, dished out a small takeout menu to an eager audience. The eatery was the couple's response to the area's lack of Ethiopian options, and every dish was a specialty crafted by Lewam, formerly of Sheba, Miami's only Ethiopian eatery that closed several years ago.
Now, after a yearlong hiatus, this Ethiopian eatery is back in business, albeit under new management.
Today, Lewam's legacy lives on through a passionate mother-daughter venture known as Teff Fields Ethiopian Cuisine, located in the same vendor booth as its predecessor and named for the teff grain used to make injera, the country's spongy sourdough flatbread. The chef is now Ethiopian-born Hiwot Negussie, who diligently mans the meager kitchen's steaming trays of food while her daughter, Meron, takes orders and chats with customers.
Like most stateside Ethiopian restaurants, Teff Fields' menu is mainly vegetarian, although you can also find the country's most popular meat dishes here on special, including doro wot (stewed chicken and eggs in a berbere-stained sauce) and key wot (an Ethiopian beef stew).
My favorite dish here is the simple Ethiopian staple misir wot: a hearty stew made with red lentils, berbere (a chile and spice blend used in many such dishes), and a clarified butter known as niter kibbeh, simmered together until the main ingredient is all but indistinguishable.
The best way to make the most out of a visit to Teff Fields, open during market hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, is to order the beyaynetu platter. That misir wot I love is one of six to nine such stews that arrive as part of a large, communal plate Hiwot drapes with a giant sheet of injera, then loads like a painter's palette with tiny heaps of her most popular vegetable dishes.
Each fistful-size mound is an onslaught of different colors, textures, and flavors portioned to give just enough to tantalize without overwhelming. They range from the vibrant neon-yellow yekik alicha (yellow split peas cooked with turmeric, garlic, onion, and ginger) to the burgundy-hued beets cooked with potato, onion, and parsley.
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While takeout is an option, it's an experience to snag one of the four stools at the edge of Teff Fields' cozy open kitchen and watch as Hiwot spins and stretches the injera. If you're lucky, she'll offer a basket piled with a few extra rolls of the tangy bread, customarily used to scoop and cradle bite-size portions of each mini veggie mountain.
"There are forks for people who don't want to eat with their hands," says Meron, "but you don't need one here. That's what the injera is for."
Teff Fields Ethiopian Cuisine. 1940 N. 30th Rd., Hollywood; 954-990-9986; tefffields.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram