Places To Eat In Canterbury: Chingah Habesha

Close up of Bebaaynetu at Chingah Habesha

Have you ever tried Ethiopian and Eritrean food? If the answer (as I am suspecting!) is no, I urge you to head along to Chingah Habesha on Northgate, a small, unassuming restaurant by the the tailors and the coffee shop where last week we had an absolutely fantastic introduction to Ethiopian cooking with a delicious vegetarian sharing platter.

Walking in, the air smelt delicious and of what our meal turned out to be: both familiar and unusual. They serve food for breakfast (looking at their menu, there are eggs of course, and fava beans (Ful-Meselah) and of course Ethiopean tea, but if you’re just looking to dip your toe in, I think lunch makes a great first experience.

Traditional art on the walls at Chingah Habesha Canterbury
Bebaaynetu for sharing with rolled flatbreads.

The staff are super friendly at Chingah Habesha, which is just as well as I don’t even need one hand to list what I knew about Ethiopian and Eritrean food before we actually tried it: we were given menus which seemed to have a goof range of lamb and chicken (which I’ll be back to try later!) as well as many vegetarian dishes.

On admitting we had no idea what we were doing, and deciding that yes, we were in the mood for vegetarian food we were recommended the Bebaaynetu: a combination platter of vegetarian and vegan curries and vegetable dish which happened to include every single veggie dish on Chingah Habesha’s menu, traditionally served on a round of injera – a fermented pancake-like flatbread made with teff flour – with extra pieces for dipping and scooping; we were offered cutlery if we wanted it, but we ate everything the traditional way with our hands.

Ground chickpea curry and vegetables on a Bebaaynetu.

Everything was delicious, mostly made with familiar ingredients, served sometimes in an unusual way, all mopped up with the spongy, light, slightly sour injera. The hamli – slow cooked spinach – was not quite to my taste but my mother loved it; I preferred the tsahili shiro in the middle of the platter, a very slightly spicy, rich, creamy sauce-like curry of roasted ground chickpeas. Both lentil dishes were also fantastic, as as the potato and beetroot number. Honestly, I’m encouraged that next time I can just go in and order blindly; you can’t really do wrong.

To drink, by the way as well as the aforementioned Ethiopian tea you can get wine, beer, juices and smoothies, but we just opted for sparkling water.

Grab a friend or two and go for the experience, but then stay at and return to Chingah Habesha for the food. We just walked in on a Wednesday lunchtime and had to go off and browse the shops for 20 minutes as the cook was not quite ready (though it was worth the wait!) so if you don’t have the time to be flexible mid-week or you want to guarentee a table (not what you went for, but if you do get caught short and you enjoy Japanese food I can however highly recommend Tamago a few doors up!), I’d recommend booking online.