By Anatoli Bulti
Sangam restaurant is one of the oldest Indian restaurants in Addis Ababa, providing an authentic Indian dining experience. This restaurant was established in 1973, and after briefly relocating to De Leopold International Hotel, the restaurant is now in a compound around Bole Printing Press, a five-minute walk from its original location on Bole Road (Africa Avenue).
We were greeted with the warm welcome of the owner of the restaurant and the staff alike. Since it was lunchtime and the weather hot, we decided to sit in the outdoors. We sat flipping through the menu as a soft Indian classical tune played in the background.
Because of the Hindu and Islam background of the owners, the restaurant serves neither beef nor pork but provides several alternative meat options. The menu is full of different fish, chicken or lamb-based dishes and a variety of vegetarian and vegan selections. The menu also has a thali option where different types of dishes are served in a single platter. The owner, Mr. Shaik, took the liberty of recommending some of the best dishes the restaurant had to offer.
The Lassi, an Indian flavored yogurt, came first. The mango-flavored Lassi was served cold, which was refreshing and perfect for the weather. While we waited on the food, we chatted with Mr. Shaik who gave us a brief background on the restaurant. The idea for opening an Indian restaurant came from Ato Habtselassie Tafesse, who is considered the father of Ethiopian tourism and who coined the phrase “13 months of sunshine”. Ato Habtselassie pushed Mr. Shaik’s father and his uncle to open the restaurant. Eventually, Sangam opened its doors with the patronage of Princess Tenangework who provided the space that had been the home of the restaurant for over 4 decades. According to Mr. Shaik, Sangam was the first-ever restaurant to open on Bole road.
The fist of our orders to arrive was vegetarian and non-vegetarian samosas. The non-vegetarian samosas were stuffed with well-seasoned minced mutton (lamb) while the vegetarian one had a mixed veggie stuffing. We were then served a mixed kebab dish of lamb, fish, chicken wings and minced chicken cooked in a tandoor (Indian charcoal oven). The different types of meat were cooked to perfection, with the slightly burnt taste from the charcoal oven adding a different dimension to the flavors.
One cannot go to an Indian restaurant and leave without trying the curry; the next two dishes to be served were the Butter Chicken and a vegetarian Masala Fish. Served with Vegetable Pillau, rice mixed with vegetables, the sauce of the butter chicken was creamy and the chicken was soft and tender. The Masala fish was served with plain rice, the combination of the rice, fried fish and curry making for a delicious taste. We were also served 3 different types of naan, Indian bread baked in tandoori; with the plain, cheese and garlic naan adding a nice complementary flavor to the curry dishes. The garlic naan was a personal favorite as the garlic taste was not too overwhelming and meshed well with the softness of the naan.
The food was delicious, with portions big enough to fully satisfy customers. Although we were full, we couldn’t help but try to finish all the food on the table while also making room for dessert. The dessert was milk-based Indian sweet with a refreshing taste. According to Mr. Sheik, a sweet dessert is necessary to counter the strong and spicy ingredients of most Indian food.
Sangam restaurant is a perfect choice to satisfy your Indian cuisine cravings; it offers a variety of meat, fish, chicken, rice, and vegetarian curry dishes; a fair price with a convenient location. Although unfortunately, it is no longer in its original historical location, the new space does a good job to hold its own.