Food is to Ethiopians as water is to fish. Eating is a relaxed, communal and celebrated experience. Food is always fresh, ingredients are organic and spices are used liberally. Meats, stews and vegetables are poured over a shared plate of Injera eaten by hand and enjoyed together.
Teff: what is it?
Ethiopias have been growing and obsessing about Teff for millennia, and it may become the new” supper grain” of choice in Europe and North America, overtaking the likes of quinoa and spelt. “High in protein and calcium, iron, and gluten-free”, teff is already growing in popularity on the international stage. Teff facts: Teff is the seed of grass native to Ethiopia known as “lovegrass”. It was one of the late earliest cultivatedplants. In Ethiopia teff is most often made into a pankack called Injera, which is often used as a plate, with other foods placed on top.
What is it? Injera is strange the first time you see it, touch it and smell it which is made from Teff. It’s squishy, sour-smelling and looks a bit like the surface of the moon. But it’s delicious and accompanies everything perfectly. It’s injera and it’s about to be your new favorite utensil.
Vegetarian/Fasting food: Ethiopian cuisine is a vegetarian’s dream. Local, organic produces shines when cooked as the centerpiece of any dish. Whether its potatoes, lentils, beets or everything served up together it’s fresh, it’s healthy and it’s freaking delicious. That being said, there’s a much bigger variety of vegetarian (actually vegan) cuisine on Wednesdays and Fridays: fasting days when Orthodox Christians don’t eat any animal products.
Shiro: What is it?
Shiro is the quintessential fasting dish, although it’s sometimes made with traditional butter (shiro be kibe) or with beef (bozena). You can find it anywhere, at any time. Although be warned—quality ranges broadly!
Beyaynetu:What is it?
This is a total veggie delight. Beyaynetu is an assortment of everything vegetarian on one mesmerizing plate. It’s colorful, it’s awesome and there’s something for everyone. The dish is usually served with mild spiciness and a stuffed karia chili pepper to add some heat!
Beyaynetu will almost always come with shiro and lentil stew (meser wot) and a variety of veggies.
- Aterkik Alicha: split yellow peas with onion, garlic, ginger and turmeric.
- Atkilt Wot: curried veggies – mainly potatoes, carrots and onions.
- Atkilt Salata: boiled potatoes, beets and carrots.
- Fasolia: green beans and carrots sautéed in caramelized onion.
- Gomen: chopped and sautéed collard greens.
- Meser Wot: split lentils with onion garlic and a blend of spices – it’s sometimes spicy.
- Timatim Salata: cubes of tomato, onion, and hot pepper with lime juice.
Injerar Firfir: What is it?
Firfir is injera with injera. That’s right. It’s for the die-hard injera lovers only! It can be eaten any time of the day – breakfast, lunch and dinner – but is most commonly found for breakfast. It can also sometimes be Served Firfir Be Siga (With Meat) Or Quanta Firfir (With Dried Meat).
None Fasting Food
Meat is a huge part of the diet for Addis and other major cities dwellers, although it’s somewhat less common in rural areas. Addis holds most of Ethiopia’s wealth so, even though the animals come from the countryside; the majority of the meat consumed in Ethiopia is cooked-up in Addis and other urban centers. And boy, do people love their meat, particularly red meat (except for on Wednesdays and Fridays when the Orthodox Christians fast). Nonetheless, even on those days you can still find places serving meat without too much hassle.
You’ll frequently see sheep and goats traversing their way through the busy streets of Addis, and occasionally a chicken or a cow (and donkeys – but no one eats them!). All Ethiopian none fasting foods allowed according to the holy bible (Old Testament). So that’s what’s available to eat: beef, lamb, goat and chicken. And you can’t go more than a block without seeing cow carcasses hanging in the street-front butcher shops – it’s up there to show you just how fresh it is.
Doro wot: What is it?
Doro, meaning chicken, is the meat in this dish and it’s basically the only dish where chicken is used. It’s an Easter specialty where people eat meat for the first time after fasting for lent (55 days). After the onions are simmered in kibe (spiced butter) — more butter is added followed by garlic, ginger and lots of berbere, which gives it the spice. Raw chicken is added to the stew as is enough water to cover everything. It is all then simmered and, just when the dish is almost finished, boiled eggs are tossed in.
Tibs: What is it?
Tibs are the go-to dish. Whether made from beef (most common), goat or lamb they are succulent, tender, juicy and flat-out delectable!
– Zilzil tibs: tibs cut in a zigzag line about 8 inches long!
– Shekla tibs: tibs cooked on a clay pot over steaming charcoals. The whole apparatus is brought to your table.
– Chikena tibs: a misnomer of sorts, as it refers to the tenderloin. It’s the best cut of meat and it will cost you extra. At our local butcher a ten birr tip gets us extra chickena in our order.
What is it? Raw meat! It’s pretty self-explanatory. Rather than cooking it, the meat is thrown on a plate with injera and spices. You could call it steak tartar, but that’s generous. Eating raw meat is a status symbol and usually reserved for special occasions. This dish is not for the faint of heart…or stomach.
What is it? Kitfo is a dish not eaten casually. It’s a big treat and is reserved for the middle and upper classes.Spices, Sauces & Other Most every family or restaurant makes their own spices. Dried peppers are bought from market, dried further in the hot Ethiopian sun and then ground with other ingredients in specific quantities.