The little red food truck parked outside Auckland’s Lynn Mall may look unassuming, but the food being prepared inside it is anything but. Ethiopian food truck Mesob opened its doors in May 2019 and is the result of one family’s desire to bring the flavours of their birth country’s cuisine to New Zealand - the nation they’ve called home for the past 16 years. Named after the colourful stands that are used to serve injera, a soft fermented bread that accompanies all their meals, Mesob was founded by husband and wife duo, Henok and Genet, and Genet’s sister, Eden.
Before arriving in New Zealand, Henok admits that the All Blacks and their mighty haka, Anchor milk powder, and KIWI shoe polish were the only things he knew about where he was moving to. Now a local – and still an avid All Blacks supporter - he happily reports that he has found New Zealand to be a beautiful, peaceful and welcoming place to live.
Kiwis have welcomed my family into their community, and we want to give back by sharing a slice of our home community with them.
“In Ethiopia, food is seen as a way to share and spend time together, and we want to share our culture with the people of New Zealand.”
The food truck has been a labour of love for this family unit, who all grew up in Mek’ele, Ethiopia, a tropical city of about 300,000 people. Genet and Eden were both taught to cook by their grandmother from the age of four or five years old, and together with Henok, they’re sharing their passion for the cuisine of their childhood with Kiwis.
Mesob is one of just two places in Auckland to serve authentic Ethiopian food, and its appeal is immediate. The sisters keep their food truck’s incense dish well stocked, which makes for an enticing aroma when combined with the smell of fresh coffee, popcorn and warming cooking spices. Genet says sharing meals is a large part of their Ethiopian culture.
Normally families eat together on one tray. Even in restaurants that is the norm, to go with friends and share all the food you ordered on one tray.
Typical dishes served from Mesob’s pots include the very popular doro wot, a comforting, spicy chicken dish which takes three to four hours to prep. On Wednesdays and Fridays, the entire menu is vegan, in accordance with the Ethiopian tradition of not eating meat or dairy on those days.
The meals are warming, brimming with flavour and moreish. According to Genet and Eden, customers especially love the Misir Kik Wot, a blend of red lentils cooked in finely chopped onion, berbere (Ethiopian spice blend), and the Keysir be dnich - a unique dish of potatoes stained bright pink with beetroot juice and cooked in berbere. Both are delicious mopped up with plenty of fresh injera.
“Many of our customers have never tried, or even heard of Ethiopian dishes before, but they’re curious. One of my favourite things is to see them have the first bite and their eyes light up – it’s special to be bringing something so unique to Auckland,” says Genet.
Then there’s the coffee, which is imported from Ethiopia, where the drink is seen as social therapy. Mesob makes their coffee fresh for each customer by hand-roasting, grinding and brewing fresh green coffee beans. Served black with a side of popcorn, the coffee packs a punch and tastes as fresh as you can get. Typically, Ethiopians drink three cups at regular moments throughout the day with family – morning, midday, and evening.
Mesob’s tea is also a treat, with its fresh, vibrant orange, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and clove combination making for an especially warming – and beautifully coloured - cuppa on a cold morning.
Any Ethiopian cuisine enthusiasts that can’t find one of their favourites on Mesob’s menu are in luck – Genet and Eden are happy to whip up any Ethiopian dish on request.
For one small food truck, the food, drinks and slice of culture that it delivers are seriously impressive. A taste of Ethiopia in the middle of New Lynn is something pretty special – and introducing your palate to these traditional delights is not something you’ll regret.