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Is Orlando A World Class Food City? Selam Ethiopian proves it.

who needs a fork? we went deep into an oft overlooked cuisine for a feast of epic proportions in orlando
by Crystal Roberts | October 19, 2023

A short read on our long adventures.

I’ve always been a girl with an eye for the new and obscure, especially when it comes to food.

I am looking for the next best cuisine to hit the States.  I love to dive into flavors unknown to my American palate, eager to uncover gastronomy that speaks to my soul. 

I found just that in Orlando, Florida.   

Tucked away in a shopping plaza not far from Orlando International Airport (MCO) you’ll find Selam Ethiopian and Eritrean Cuisine.  

Now I know what you’re thinking.  Ethiopian food!?!  How could that possibly be delicious? 

For years we have watched commercials asking Americans to donate cents a day to feed the starving children from the impoverished lands of Ethiopia and surrounding countries of Africa.  Cents that would provide a bowl of mush covered in flies, or so the commercials portrayed.  

Curiosity got the best of me, as it usually does, and we went into the restaurant.     

Upon entering the establishment, we were pleasantly greeted by our server and the smell of frankincense.  He led us through the open space and past the bar to our large round table.  Once we were seated comfortably, he handed over our menus filled with new and exciting menu options not yet known to us.  

After some deliberation and lots of Googling, we came up with a game plan.  

Making sure we didn’t suffer from FOMO we started with an order of samosas (something familiar) and ordered the Selam meat and veggie combination special, and added lamb tibs.  While we waited I decided to order the traditional coffee ceremony.  

A ceremony?  For coffee?  Count me in!

The samosas arrived at the same time the coffee ceremony began.  They were small, crispy, and full of flavor.  

While we munched, our server presented a large handmade clay pot, 4 small coffee cups, and a tray filled with smoking frankincense.  The smell was pleasantly calming and added a welcome touch to the atmosphere.  He distributed the coffee and left the pot with the incense burning on a stand next to the table.  The coffee itself was dark, dense, and strong with notes of cardamom.  I like my coffee like I like my whiskey, straight, but he did offer sugar to those who chose to sweeten their drink.  It was an overall enjoyable experience. 

Then was the moment we’d all been waiting for.  The table was completely cleared to make room for a large circular platter filled with an assortment of meats, veggies, and accompaniments atop a blanket of spongy flatbread.  

That’s it.  No side plates, no silverware, all by design.  

Injeera bread from Selam Ethiopian restaurant.
Injeera – the only fork and spoon we were given. – Vittles&Nosh

We were instructed to dive in with our hands, using the bread, or injera, as a consumable spoon.  Challenge accepted!  

I shamelessly tore through the base, savagely scooping up heaping bites of chicken, beef, lamb, and vegetables. This injera, with a pancake-like texture, was delicious on its own, but along with one of the ten different dishes we had splayed out in front of us, it was divine!  

To be completely honest I’m not even exactly sure what we ate.  

We had some cold items, others were hot. Some were spicy and paired with cottage cheese to calm the burn, others were buttery and packed with flavor. Everything on that platter was amazingly flavorful and new to my palate. Every bite was more exciting than the last. This was pure joy, a core memory in the making.

Once we had consumed our fill, our charming server presented us with a to-go box and laughingly offered a spoon to help pack the remainder of our meal.  

“Now that you’re finished, you have earned silverware.”  

Overall our experience at Selam was inviting, intriguing and delicious. The hospitality alone was enough for us to return, but we will certainly be back to try more menu items.  Eager to learn more about Ethiopian and Eritrean culture, and hungry to experience new adventurous flavors.   

The meat and veggie combination platter with lamb tibs.

Selam is open daily from noon to 9 pm and closed on Tuesdays. Try the coffee service or give an authentic Ethiopian beer a swallow. And remember you WILL need to use those fingers of yours to get the most out of Selam.

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