Mon 1 Nov 2010
It’s been almost two years since the Fojol Brothers burst onto the DC vending scene with their take on Indian cuisine. Their butter chicken, lentils, and curry are fresh and flavorful, and the mango lassipop is a favorite warm weather treat. But the Fojols are a nomadic people, and Merlindia has open borders and neighboring lands…
When the Fojol mobile carnival paid a visit to Capitol Hill just before the Curbside Cookoff, I had a chance to chat with Dingo (one of the ‘brothers’). We talked about the diversity of food truck concepts that have launched over the past few months and the city council’s actions. But there was one thing he told me that particularly piqued my interest. Dingo suggested that if everything went smoothly we’d be seeing another Fojol Brothers truck on the street before too long.
I pressed him for details, but he demurred. All he would tell me is that the truck would reflect the spirit of Merlindian enthusiasm, if not the same cuisine. I was intrigued, and impatient to see what would come.
On Saturday, as I was scouting the vending options along Independence Avenue near the Stewart/Colbert rally, I walked past the new Dangerously Delicious Pie Truck and came upon not one, but two Fojol Brothers trucks parked together! A new set of Fojol Brothers have made their way to Washington. They hail from Benethiopia, a land known for its spicy and savory dishes as well as the spongy injera bread upon which they’re served.
A sampling of Benethiopian cuisine after the jump.Like their Merlindian brethren, the Fojol Brothers of Benethopia offer a changing selection of dishes from a larger menu each time they hit the road. One of the costumed Fojols on Saturday informed me that the recipes come from the wife of one of the partners, who is Ethiopian and an accomplished chef. The inaugural menu included beef berbere (an iconic Ethiopian blend of spices that delivers lingering heat offset by notes of clove and allspice) as the sole meat option and a solid variety of vegetarian options.
To order, you choose one, two or three of the options and give your name at the front window. Just want a taste? Try a “dingo bite” of one dish for $2. If you’re looking for a meal, pick two full-size servings for $7 or three for $9. Pay the mustachioed man (or woman) and then step to the rear window to await your plate. When your name is called you receive a plate laden with Ethiopian-inspired delights.
Each of your dishes is dolloped onto traditional sourdough pancake-like injera, and the Fojols immediately endeared themselves to us by serving a small stack of injera wedges alongside the meal. Forks are available for the uninitiated, but traditionally Ethiopian cuisine is eaten by scooping things up with hunks of injera – hence the very welcome stack. A roll of paper towels is prominently featured on the side of the truck, and each diner receives a wet wipe with his or her meal as further encouragement to go ahead and eat with your hands.
Among our group we all opted for a taste of the beef berbere, which was tender and juicy with a lasting sweet heat. To go with it, we each chose a different vegetable side. The beets and beans were cool and refreshing, and the collard greens had a rich, smoky flavor. The berbere lentils shared the heat of the beef, and the split peas had a vibrant yellow texture and a thankfully firm consistency. We’re no experts in Ethiopian cuisine, but the flavors were consistent with those we’ve had at various restaurants in and out of Washington. And they were GOOD.
We had expected our lunch options to be seriously limited when we headed out for the rally; we actually planned to wait until we were headed home to stop for a bite. According to Tweets from BGR Burger Joint in Dupont Circle and Taylor Gourmet (both DC locations), we would have been in good company as both had their highest sales volume days ever on Saturday. Instead, we were able to introduce one of our guests to Ethiopian cuisine without seeking it out on 9th or U Street.
I don’t know if I’d be bold enough to try kitfo (spiced raw beef) from a food truck, but for dishes like beef berbere, doro wat, or tibs it seems like the Fojol Brothers of Benethiopia have a great thing going. I was especially pleased to see such a wide range of vegetarian options – we learned early on that a bountiful and diverse vegetarian sampler is a delicious point of pride at most Ethiopian establishments. The choices offered by the Fojols were a great representation of that.
For now, the Fojol Brothers’ website and Facebook page make no mention of the new truck, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time before they roll out a second Twitter feed so you can keep track of both bands of brothers. We’re already eager to see where the Fojols take us next.