in April 2017
by WENDY GUILD SWEARINGEN
LUCY, NAMED FOR THE FAMOUS SKELETON OF THE THREE-MILLION-YEAR-OLD
early human female skeleton discovered by archaeologist Donald Johanson in Ethiopia in
1974, brought Ethiopian cuisine to Buffalo in 2012. Since then, owners Abba and Naima
Biya have demonstrated a commitment to preparing authentic high-quality, flavorful Ethiopian food while being responsive to their customers’ diets and desires—most notably a move
toward more vegetarian dishes. Abba still loves making traditional meat stews, or wot, fragrant with berbere, and tibs, which is kind of like an Ethiopian version of fajitas with marinated meat sautéed with vegetables.
DO YOU MISS ETHIOPIA?
DO YOU HAVE FAMILY HERE?
There’s a group of family around
here, about 1,500 to 1,700 people
around here in Buffalo and Canada.
WHAT’S THE NATIONAL FOOD OF ETHIOPIA?
Doro wot, chicken drumstick with
a boiled egg. That’s a lot of cooking, so
that takes all day to prepare.
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL SPICE MIXTURE?
Yes, berbere. There are many spic-
es [including] cardamom, fenugreek,
cumin, ginger, chilies, paprika.
The basis of most Ethiopian meals is injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread, basically a large pancake with a slightly spongy
texture. It is traditionally made with flour ground from teff, a
grass whose seed is incredibly high in fiber, iron, and calcium
and contains the amino acids required to be a complete protein while being gluten-free. Injera is a national dish in Ethiopia and is used as both plate and utensil. Diners simply tear
off a piece, scoop up some food with it, and pop it in their
mouths. We spoke with Abba Biya about his new location,
which offers more seating and a very cool coffee ceremony
room straight off the African plateau.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE MISSION OF THE RESTAURANT?
The mission of the restaurant is hard work. For Ethiopian
food, most of my customers are vegetarian or vegan. It takes
time to cook. Everything is cooked fresh. We don’t serve fro-
zen food kind of stuff.
DO YOU HAVE TO GO TO ANY SPECIALTY MARKETS FOR THE
Yes. Injera, the bread we serve is gluten free. And that
takes about twenty-four hours to make. It’s made with teff,
grown only in Ethiopia. It needs time to get fermented. With
this climate, it takes time—about two to three days to ferment.
DO YOU DO THE COOKING?
Yes. I learned from my mom. And before I opened this res-
taurant, I took classes at George Brown College; a six-month
course. It’s a passion now.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO COOK?
I like to cook lamb dishes and goat, like awaze tibs. Now
I’ve switched to more vegetarian because most of my custom-
ers’ diet. I serve more veggie combo, chickpea, lentil, cab-
bage, and collard greens.
HOW DO PEOPLE USUALLY EAT HERE?
It’s most family style. We serve individuals, as well, it
depends how you want it. You use your hands to eat. You take
a piece of injera and pick up the food. We will provide utensils
if someone wants them.
WHEN DID YOU MOVE TO THE UNITED STATES FROM ETHIOPIA?
I’ve been here about six years.