One of DC’s newest food businesses at Union Market (a local restaurant incubator) is Gorsha, a fast-casual Ethiopian food eatery that I stumbled upon recently. I’ve only been introduced to Ethiopian cuisine relatively recently, since moving to DC three years ago, and I love it, but when eaten in the traditional way (with shared platters) it requires that you enjoy a meal in a group. To make Ethiopian food more accessible and affordable to people who may not try it otherwise, or who just want to get a meal on their own, Gorsha owner Hiyaw Gebreyohannes has converted the traditional flavors (like injera bread and yellow split peas) into bowl and “pocket” form (like a taco).
As soon as I tried Gorsha, I knew I wanted to save some of my bowl and #putaneggonit. The flavors already tasted amazing, but I wanted to see how a runny yolk would accent them. The result, pictured here, was delicious.
I chatted with Hiyaw via email and asked him about Gorsha, how it started, and where he sees the eatery going in the future – here are his answers:
Meag: What inspired you to start Gorsha?
Hiyaw: What gets me most excited in the kitchen is to be able to tap into the scents and textures of traditional Ethiopian dishes that are familiar to me while also getting innovative with contemporary pairings and food technique that have influenced my culinary career. As an entrepreneur and chef, I dream to share our food with the world by introducing colorful ways to prepare and present it. In urban cities like Washington, where many Ethiopians migrate and set up shop, our food is on the cusp of popularity. My vision is to leverage this rising popularity to help make Ethiopian food as accessible as any other genre of mainstream global cuisine, and not just in family-owned restaurants.
Meag: Why do you think people are mystified by Ethiopian cuisine?
Hiyaw: While staples of Ethiopian cuisine date back centuries, there are still misconceptions of Ethiopian food. Despite being the second most populous country in Africa, many associate Ethiopia with its historic famine of the 1980’s, which contradicts the country’s potential to be known as a noteworthy culinary destination. Yet, given the spread of restaurants in the West, Ethiopian food is growing and strengthening its reputation.
Meag: What’s your favorite Gorsha dish?
Hiyaw: My personal favorite are the injera pockets, which are essentially served like tacos. Like the bowls, the pockets let you mix and match meats, veggies and toppings, but presented in a way you wouldn’t typically be served Ethiopian. Of course the Gorsha Bowl is a popular favorite as well. It’s got all the good stuff in one and has been a staple order for people who are excited to try the food but don’t know where to start.
Meag: Do you ever incorporate eggs into your Ethiopian dishes?
Hiyaw: I’ve gotta say we’ve never incorporated eggs into our dishes. Seeing the way you’ve been creating with adding egg has certainly inspired us though.
Meag: Do you have plans to expand outside of Union Market?
Hiyaw: Most definitely! We’re hoping to open another location in the next six months. With the right timing and location, we’ll make it happen.