Three Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants offer vegan dishes to its customers

The owner of the Jamaican restaurant in the Public Market House, Wright says the menu’s many vegan choices reflect the influence of Ital food on the island.” All my years growing up in Jamaica, you would not use any all-purpose seasoning,” explained Wright, who has run a catering business in Portland since 2013.”Ital means food that is from the earth. Ital or not, the Yardie Ting vegan dishes, including jerk tofu, coconut curry, the Mon Hungry sandwich, spinach patties, and the fried plantains, taste great and sell well. As a white ally in one of the whitest states in the nation, one of the simplest actions I can take is to spend my money at Black-owned businesses, such as Yardie Ting. The Eritrean restaurant was shuttered for many months because of the pandemic before it reopened in June and it remains takeout only. All of Asmara’s vegetarian dishes are vegan, and Teklu told me she sells more vegetarian than non-vegetarian dishes these days.” We are doing well, so far,” said Teklu, who grew up in Eritrea and moved to Maine in 1988.”It’s not like it used to be, but it’s good for this time”. She said the vegetarian sampler plate, which is made to feed a family of four and costs $49. Asmara’s sampler plate “has a little bit of all the vegetarian options,” such as steamed greens, stewed lentils, ground and roasted chickpeas, and spicy stewed okra and potatoes. Asmara, named for the capital of Eritrea and located near the Maine College of Art, is one of at least three Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants in Portland offering vegan dishes to pair with fresh injera. The strong vegetarian tradition reflects the regions’ large number of Coptic Orthodox Christians, who must eat vegetarian food on more than 200 days a year, and the significant Muslim community, who observe stretches of vegetarian days throughout the year. The Eritrean and Ethiopian eatery the Red Sea, which opened in 2014 on Washington Avenue’s restaurant row, also offers a vegetarian menu that is all-vegan. The restaurant also offers falafels and lentil sambusas, both vegan.” Most of our business this year is takeout,” Tsegai said.”Business was good in July, and August was OK, but after Labor Day it’s slowed a bit”. All year it’s been offering pop-up lunches and dinners at the Fork Food Lab and the Yarmouth Farmers’ Market. Niyat recently partnered with the City of Portland’s Office of Economic Opportunity to offer a Recipes for Welcoming meal kit. In addition to the cuisines of many Black majority countries having strong vegetarian traditions, Black Americans are much more likely to be vegans, vegetarians, and semi-vegetarians than other groups of Americans. The New York Times wrote about this phenomenon in 2018 and shared a video of shirtless young white men guzzling cow’s milk.