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Queen Sheba is one of many ethnic restaurants on the Broadway corridor, where diners can sample food from such places as Nepal, China, Japan and beyond.
Vaguely reminiscent of both Indian and Mexican cuisine, the Ethiopian food at Queen Sheba, located at 1704 Broadway, is an authentic taste of owner Zion Taddese’s homeland, she recently told The Sacramento Press.
“I left Ethiopia, and I was in England for 10 years,” the 38-year-old Taddese said. “My aunt had an Ethiopian restaurant in London, and that’s where I learned how to cook and take care of customers.”
Taddese came to the United States in 2001 and opened Queen Sheba about seven years ago. It has been in its Broadway location for the past five years.
I recently met with Taddese to talk about some of the hallmarks of Ethiopian cuisine, and she told me that it’s characterized by a lot of flavorful spices such as garlic and ginger, an abundance of vegetables and meats such as beef and lamb.
While flatware is available at the restaurant, one of the first things diners will notice when they get their food is the side of rolled-up sourdough crepes served with entrées. It’s called injera, and is similar to Indian naan bread in that it’s baked on a grill and is meant to be used to eat the food.
Meals are served family-style, and diners tear off pieces of the bread to scoop up the food from the main plate.
“It’s about getting together and sharing the food,” Taddese said. “Back home, nobody eats by themselves. That’s what we’re trying to reproduce here.”
One of the most popular traditional dishes at Queen Sheba is the kitfo – a minced beef with a medley of spices.
Spices common to Ethiopian dishes include turmeric and paprika.
To showcase the range of Ethiopian foods, Taddese brought out a plate with kitfo, potatoes, lamb, yellow split peas, red lentils, greens and doro wat – chicken served with an egg.
Image by: Brandon Darnell
She explained that many first-timers have a tough time getting more than one type of food with per bite while using the bread as a utensil, but once they get the hang of it, they are able to mix and match with ease.
A lunch buffet features vegetarian items, and Taddese said that is one of the restaurant’s most popular offerings.
The sourdough bread contains wheat and the gluten-free grain teff, and those who cannot eat gluten can call a day or two in advance to ensure the bread is baked solely with teff for a full gluten-free meal.
If you’re looking for a taste of Ethiopian cuisine, Taddese said her staff is ready to walk first-timers through the process.
“Most people who come in here want to know about our culture and our history,” Taddese said. “Our staff is ready to explain the food and the culture so they can have the whole experience.”