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Ethiopia Cuisine


Ethiopian cuisine characteristically consists of spicy vegetable and meat dishes, usually in the form of wat (or wot), a thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flat bread, which is about 50 cm (20 in) in diameter and made out of fermented teff flour. Ethiopians eat with their right hands, using pieces of injera to pick up bites of entrées and side dishes. No utensils are used.

Traditional Ethiopian cuisine employs no pork of any kind, as most Ethiopians are either Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, Muslims or Jews, and are thus prohibited from eating pork. Furthermore, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church prescribes a number of fasting periods, including Wednesdays, Fridays, and the entire Lenten season, so Ethiopian cuisine contains many vegetarian dishes. This has also led Ethiopian cooks to develop a rich array of cooking oil sources: besides sesame and safflower, Ethiopian cuisine also uses nug (also spelled noog, known also as niger seed). Ethiopian restaurants are a popular choice for vegetarians living in Western countries.

Traditional Dishes

Berbere, a combination of powdered chili pepper and other spices (somewhat analogous to Southwestern American chili powder), is an important ingredient used in many dishes. Also essential is niter kibbeh, a clarified butter infused with ginger, garlic and several spices.

Wat stews all begin with a large amount of chopped red onions, which the cook simmers or sautees in a pot. Once the onions have softened, the cook adds niter kebbeh (or, in the case of vegan dishes, vegetable oil). Following this, the cook adds berbere to make a spicy keiy wat, or may omit the berbere for a milder alicha wat or alecha wat. In the event that the berbere is particularly spicy, the cook may elect to add it before the kibbeh or oil so the berbere will cook longer and become milder. Finally, the cook adds meat such as beef, chicken, fish, goat or lamb; legumes such as split peas or lentils; or vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and chard.

Alternatively, rather than being prepared as a stew, meat or vegetables may be sautéed to make tibs. Tibs is served normal or special, "special tibs" is served on a hot dish with vegetables (salad) mixed in.

Another distinctive Ethiopian dish is kitfo, which consists of raw (or rare) ground beef marinated in mitmita (a very spicy chili powder) and niter kibbeh. Gored gored is very similar to kitfo, but uses cubed, rather than ground, beef.

Firfir or fitfit, made from shredded injera with spices, is a typical breakfast dish. Another popular breakfast food is dulet, a spicy mixture of tripe, liver, beef, and peppers with injera. Fatira consists of a large fried pancake made with flour, often with a layer of egg, eaten with honey. Chechebsa (or kita firfir) resembles a pancake covered with berbere and kibbeh, or spices, and may be eaten with a spoon.


Tej is a honey wine, similar to mead, that is frequently drunk in bars. Katikal and araki are inexpensive local spirits that are very strong.

Coffee (buna) originates from Ethiopia, and is a central part of Ethiopian beverages. Equally important is the ceremony which accompanies the serving of the coffee, which is sometimes served from a jebena, a clay coffee pot in which the coffee is boiled. In most homes a dedicated coffee area is surrounded by fresh grass, with special furniture for the coffee maker. A complete ceremony has three rounds of coffee and is accompanied by the burning of frankincense.





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