Neighborhood Eats: Ethiopian food on the menu in Brooklyn

BUSHWICK -- There aren't even two dozen restaurants in New York City that feature Ethiopian food, but a year ago, a new spot joined the short list.

And it's also got a vegan spin. Bunna Cafe is located at 1084 Flushing Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and bunna means coffee.

Two Ethiopians and a Texan make up the group behind Bunna Cafe, and they started with secret dinner parties before moving to pop-up restaurants before eventually opening the restaurant. And they're glad they did.

"People are very content here," co-owner Sam Saverance said. "Because the food, because it's tangible, beautiful, healthy, a positive, wholesome sense."

The entire menu is vegan, in part because much of Ethiopian food happens to be that way. And the use of berbere adds a spicy kick.

Co-owner Kedija Srage uses it for a lentil dish called misir wot. She starts by sauteing onions with a garlic ginger paste, and to that she adds the spice, the lentils, some salt and water and simmers for about five minutes.

The lentils are plated on the traditional injera bread, along with an array of other items. And traditionally, it is eaten with your hands.

"It's an experience from eating with your fingers to sharing a communal platter," co-owner Liyuw Ayalew said.

The coffee roasting happens throughout the day, and it's an experience that Brooklyn welcomes.

"We do get people trying vegan for the first time, and that's almost more of a barrier to overcome the Ethiopian thing," Saverance said.

Recipe for Misir Wot (serves 2)

1 cup whole red lentils, rinsed
2 red onions, roughly chopped
1/4 cup garlic/ginger paste (see below)
1/4 cup cooking oil
1/4 cup Berbere
1 tsp salt
2 tomatoes chopped (optional)

For garlic/ginger paste:
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 big knob of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
Put these in blender and pulse, or use mortar and pestle to grind into paste

--Rinse the red lentils thoroughly in a strainer.
--Heat large saute pan to medium, add oil and onions.
--Cook until onions soften.
--Add the ginger/garlic paste(and tomatoes). Stir.
--After about a minute, add the Berbere
--Stir every now and then over the next 5 minutes.
--Add the rinsed lentils to the mixture, along with one cup of water and the salt.
--Cover and simmer for five more minutes.