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Ethiopian Cuisine

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used with chillies and salt to make berbere

Ajwain or radhuni, korarima, nigella and fenugreek (clockwise, from top) are used with chillies and salt to make berbere, a basic ingredient in many Ethiopian dishes.

Typical serving of wat

Typical serving of wat

Fish being prepared at a market in Awasa

Fish being prepared at a market in Awasa

Kitfo served rare

Kitfo served rare

 

Ethiopian cuisine characteristically consists of vegetable and often very spicy meat dishes, usually in the form of wat (also w’et or wot), a thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread, which is about 50 centimetres in diameter and made out of fermented teff flour. Ethiopians eat exclusively with their right hands, using pieces of injera to pick up bites of entrées and side dishes. Utensils are rarely used with Ethiopian cuisine.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church prescribes a number of fasting periods, including Wednesdays, Fridays, and the entire Lenten season; so Ethiopian cuisine contains many dishes that are vegan.

Overview of Ethiopian Cuisine

A typical dish consists of injera accompanied by a spicy stew, which frequently includes beef, lamb, vegetables and various types of legumes, such as lentils. Gurage cuisine also makes use of the false banana plant, a type of ensete. The plant is pulverized and fermented to make a bread-like food called qocho or kocho (Ge’ez: ቆጮ ḳōč̣ō), which is eaten with kitfo. The root of this plant may be powdered and prepared as a hot drink called bulla (Ge’ez: ቡላ būlā), which is often given to those who are tired or ill. Another typical Gurage preparation is coffee with butter (kebbeh).

Pasta is frequently available throughout Ethiopia, including rural areas. Coffee is also a large part of Ethiopian culture/cuisine. After every meal, a coffee ceremony is enacted and espresso coffee is served.

Traditional ingredients

Berbere, a combination of powdered chilli pepper and other spices, is an important ingredient used in many dishes. Also essential is Niter Kibbeh, a clarified butter infused with ginger, garlic, and several spices.

In their adherence to strict fasting, Ethiopian cooks have developed a rich array of cooking oil sources—besides sesame and safflower—for use as a substitute for animal fats which is forbidden during fasting periods. Ethiopian cuisine also uses nug (also spelled noog, also known as “niger seed”).

List of Ethiopian dishes and foods

  • Ensete – An economically important food crop in Ethiopia.
  • Eragrostis tef – Teff has been widely cultivated and used in the countries of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Teff is an important food grain in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where it is used to make injera or tayta. Teff accounts for about a quarter of total cereal production in Ethiopia.
  • Fit-fit – an Ethiopian and Eritrean food typically served for breakfast
  • Ful medames – an Egyptian dish of cooked and mashed fava beans served with vegetable oil, cumin and optionally with chopped parsley, onion, garlic, and lemon juice, it is also a popular meal in Ethiopia and other countries
  • Ga’at – a stiff porridge
  • Gored gored – a raw beef dish
  • Guizotia abyssinica – an erect, stout, branched annual herb, grown for its edible oil and seed
  • Himbasha
  • Injera
  • Kitcha
  • Kitfo
  • Niter Kibbeh – a seasoned, clarified butter used in Ethiopian cooking
  • Rhamnus prinoides
  • Samosa – may be referred to as sambusa
  • Shahan ful
  • Shiro – a stew with primary ingredients of powdered chickpeas or broad bean meal
  • Wat – stew or curry that may be prepared with chicken, beef, lamb, a variety of vegetables, spice mixtures such as berbere, and niter kibbeh, a seasoned clarified butter. Wat is traditionally eaten with injera.

Spices

  • Aframomum corrorima – The spice known as korarima, Ethiopian cardamom, or false cardamom is obtained from the plant’s seeds (usually dried), and is extensively used in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. It is an ingredient in berbere, mitmita, awaze, and other spice mixtures, and is also used to flavour coffee.
  • Berbere – usually include chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, korarima, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella, and fenugreek.
  • Mitmita – a powdered seasoning mix used in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine

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