Ethiopian food primarily comprises spicy dishes made of vegetables and meat, most of which come in the form of wot or wat, which is a thick stew based dish, served over a 20 inch diameter sourdough bread called injira, that’s prepared from fermented teff flour and is the national food of the country. In Ethiopian food culture, the foods are eaten with right hands and no utensils are generally used. The injera pieces are used for picking up the entrée bites and side dishes. In addition to this, the people of Ethiopia follow traditional fasting on Fridays and Wednesdays, besides the entire Lenten season, as the rules laid down by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. For this reason, there are several vegetarian Ethiopian recipes which are generally used for making the dishes best suited for these occasions. This has also led the cooks of the country to develop different kinds of cooking oils in the creation of Ethiopian food like the noog or the nug oil made from niher seed, besides the regular safflower and sesame seed oils that are so popularly used in the preparation of Ethiopian foods.
Ethiopian Recipes in Regional Cuisines
In this regional cuisine of Ethiopia, wat stews are quite important. This Ethiopian food is prepared with lots of red onions, which are sautéed or simmered in a pot and on softening, are mixed with niter kebbeh or a vegetable oil if the dish is to be made into a vegan or a vegetarian version. A spicy keiy wat is made out of this dish by adding berbere. This Ethiopian food can be made milder by omitting berbere. These milder Ethiopian foods made of wat are called alecha wat or alicha wat. In either of the cases, the next stage of this Ethiopian food calls for the addition of meats like beef, chicken, lamb, goat or fish and legumes like split peas, lentils or vegetables like chard, carrots and potatoes.
Tibs is another Ethiopian food, popular in this region and is cooked as a stew with sautéed meats and vegetables, which is often served as a hot dish by mixing salad vegetables. Kitfo is another of those specialty Ethiopian food items of the Harar region, made with raw pounded beef which has been marinated in niter kibbeh and a very spicy chili powder called mitmita. Gored gored is yet another special Ethiopian food eaten in this region, which is quite similar to kitfo with the only difference being that in this dish the beef is cut into cubes and not grounded.
Firfir or fitfit a spicy dish made with shredded injera, is one of the better known Ethiopian foods eaten for breakfast, often along with the dulet, a spicy mixture of pepper, injera, beef, tribe and liver. Popular Ethiopian recipes like Fatira, a fried flour pancake served with egg and honey also comes from this region. A similar dish Chechebsa with a spicy taste is also quite common in this cuisine. Tej, similar to mead is a potent honey wine, form an integral part of the Ethiopian food culture in the Harar region, with the other popular spirits being araki, buna bets or tella and katikala.
Ethiopian recipes in Gurage cuisine
This cuisine is an integral part of the Ethiopian food culture, where qocho, also spelled kocho happens to be one of the most notable Ethiopian food items of the region made of a false banana plant ensete, processed to create a bread like dish, relished with kitfo. The hot beverage bulla with medicinal properties, made from the powdered root of the plant is often drunk. The coffee is another specialty of this cuisine and is prepared with kebbeh or butter. Kitfo made with boiled, dried and chopped collard greens and served with spices, chili and butter, remains the best known Ethiopian food from this region, with a special version Gomen kitfo which is prepared only on the holiday of Meskel.
Historical and Cultural Influences on Ethiopian Recipes
Exotic spices were introduced to the Ethiopian food scene by the traders from Far East and Europe, and it was since this time that the Ethiopian food began to be characterized by its spiciness. Refrigeration of Ethiopian food is quite rare and the meats are generally preserved with flavors and spices, with the most commonly used spice being berbere.
Ingredients Commonly Used in Ethiopian Recipes
Some of the most common ingredients used in Ethiopian foods are as follows –
- Berber : This is a spice mix made from chili pepper powder and other assorted spices, similar to the Southwestern American chili powder.
- Niter kibbeh – This ingredient which is used in several Ethiopian recipes is basically a spicy clarified butter infused with assorted spices, especially garlic and ginger.
- Ethiopian Foods: Habits and Etiquette
- In Ethiopian food culture, food is shared from a common plate to signify bonding of friendship, loyalty and unity. Traditionally, Ethiopian foods are eaten from a large platter placed on a tabletop called mesob, with the injera decoratively arranged as a side dish around the various center dishes, while telba or beer, flaxseed drink and honey wine is served as beverages.
Ethiopian Recipes: Popular Chefs
- Demeke Girma is a celebrity TV Chef besides being a restaurant owner and a renowned cooking teacher who spreads knowledge on Ethiopian food.
The world renowned celebrity Ethiopian food chef Marcus Samuelsson, who was honored with the “Best Chef: New York City” title has also served U.S President Barack Obama.