One of the best things about Ethiopia is that it isn’t just a magical country with its own calendar and distinct alphabet, but it is also home to some of the tastiest, scrumptious delicacies you will ever come across. Ethiopian cuisine is colorful, rich, and flavourful with a wide variety of cultural dishes and drinks.
Beyond taste, it is their food culture that makes Ethiopian cuisine a sight to behold. You can hardly find anyone eating alone because according to their culture, food should not be eaten alone. So you’ll usually find food served on communal platters designed for sharing. Ethiopians take great pride in preserving their culture and traditional heritage even down to their etiquette. For them, eating food always feels more like a ceremony where everyone sits around the table eating slowly and savoring the meal.
The Ethiopian National Dish
The cultural food of Ethiopia is the Injera, which is used as the base behind most Ethiopian meals. This staple is eaten twice or even thrice a day and is made from a grain known as teff, which is grounded into flour, made into a slightly fermented batter, which is then fried on a heavy skillet into a giant circular pancake.
When you visit Ethiopian restaurants, you do not need to order Injera separately because no matter the menu or what dish you mix or order, Injera is served separately by default. Food is served on a metal circular platter known as gebeta. A typical Ethiopian meal would involve Injera placed on the gebeta, then the different stews, curries, or vegetables you ordered are placed on top of the Injera.
Most times, depending on the restaurant you visit, you might also get some extra rolls of this delightful staple. There are no utensils needed as you eat with your hands sharing a single platter of food with everyone you eat with. You begin eating by first tearing off a bite-sized piece of Injera with your right hand, then use it to scoop up whatever you have on your platter.
Unique Flavors and Ingredients of Ethiopia
The use of fragrant spices that spike the exotic tastes to the food takes your taste of Ethiopia to a whole new mouth-watering level. Some special seasonings you can expect to find in the cultural foods of Ethiopia include:
- Berbere – This isis a mixture of different spices, including chili powder, ginger, garlic, cardamom, cinnamon, and fenugreek.
- Mitmita – Often salty and can either be used in cooking or served as a side seasoning for meat, mitmita is another blend of dry spices and it tastes good especially with roasted meat (Tibs).
- Awaze – The paste version of berbere. It is a combination of dry seasoning mixed with olive oil and a bit of Ethiopian wine or whiskey.
- Niter Kibbeh – Also known as the Ethiopian butter, Niter Kibbeh is another highly important ingredient and is brewed with some spices like fenugreek, cumin, and turmeric, adding a finger-licking flavor to it.
Top Ethiopian Dishes to Try During Your Stay
Made from chickpea and broad bean flour, Shiro wat is mixed with garlic and onions and is made into a thick, almost paste-like substance. Along with Injera, Shiro is one of the most widely consumed dishes in Ethiopia. For non-vegetarians, you can find versions of Shiro that often include olive oil, unlike regular Shiro that includes lots of butter. If you order a mixed combination platter of food, Shiro will nearly always be among the selection.
Also known as red lentil stew, Misir wat is cooked with a few spoons of berbere spice powder to give them a nice redness to its color and it is cooked until it is tender. Mikir wat is a staple dish all over Ethiopia and one of the most popular vegetarian dishes in Ethiopian restaurants.
Chechebsa ( Kita FirFir)
Chechebsa is one of Ethiopia’s best breakfast dishes available. This flaky butter-fried bread comes with just a hint of berbere for flavoring. It is also served with a side of fresh honey and a bowl of plain yogurt.
Injera Fit Fit
Injera fit fit is normally made with leftover or days old Injera. It is mixed with leftover Shiro wat or stew and the Injera is torn into small bite-sized rolls marinated in the leftover stew of the day and left overnight in the refrigerator. The Injera pieces become moist and fall apart. It is very juicy and the sponginess of the Injera soaks up a lot of liquid. It is usually served cool and sometimes with ice cubes in it.
Doro Wat is popularly known as chicken stew. It is made using the mixture of berbere spices and a heavy load of Ethiopian butter chicken. Eggs, and onions. When it is finally prepared, the chicken comes dripping with juices and the egg is steeped in flavor.
Ethiopia is popularly known as the birthplace of this wonderful beverage called Buna. it is a traditional Ethiopian style of coffee prepared in a clay pot known as jebena and is served in small espresso cups. Local Ethiopian coffee can be found all over the place and there are coffee shops where you get to catch a glimpse of the traditional coffee ceremony which includes showing how coffee is brewed fresh, beans roasted and the coffee grinded
Whenever you travel to Ethiopia, you will be amazed by the rich, spicy, and flavorful dishes that take you on a culinary journey that leaves your taste buds wanting more. A combination of all these dishes makes Ethiopian cultural food truly unique.