By far the best food we tried while cycling through Africa was in Ethiopia. When we got back to Canada we were looking for an Ethiopian restaurant to have an authentic experience while eating delicious Ethiopian food. Ethiopian food is not just about the kitchen, it’s about the experience. While we are currently unable to travel to Ethiopia due to civil unrest and government instability, we can look for places to enjoy Ethiopian food or even try to make it at home.
If you want to try Ethiopian dishes near you, you will quickly find that Ethiopian food is one of the most exciting cuisines around.
What is Ethiopian food like?
The distinctive and delicious food in Ethiopia is the perfect representation of a country full of cultural heritage that stands out from the rest of Africa. But even though Ethiopian cuisine is becoming better known around the world, it is still considered to be one of the best-kept culinary secrets in the world.
If you haven’t tried Ethiopian food before, you’re going to experience something. But it’s not just the flavors and combinations that make Ethiopian dishes a special experience, but also the presentation, the colors, the ceremony and the community spirit that Ethiopian-style food brings with it. Are you ready to throw away the cutlery and dig in? Let’s take a look at some of the best Ethiopian food to try at home or abroad!
About Ethiopian food
Spices, stews and curries are strongly represented in Ethiopian cuisine. The most striking feature of Ethiopian cuisine, however, is that these dishes are usually served on a giant pancake-like bread called injera that doubles as a plate and cutlery. To eat, guests tear off pieces of injera with their hands and use them to scoop up the food. But remember, when in Ethiopia try to eat with your right hand only as Ethiopians consider this to be left hand unclean.
In addition to a delicious selection of meat dishes, Ethiopia offers many vegetarian and vegan options. For religious reasons, many Ethiopians do not eat certain foods such as shellfish and pork, while the religion of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church enforces a vegetarian diet on Wednesdays, Fridays, and throughout Lent.
This spongy bread is the cornerstone of almost all Ethiopian dishes. Originally baked with 100 percent Tef flour, the bread is naturally gluten-free and vegan.
You may find injera bitter, tangy, and even slightly tart the first time, especially if you’re expecting something like Indian naan bread. But you will soon see that injera is the perfect complement to the tasty dishes and flavorful combinations that Ethiopians eat with their injera. If you want to make your own injira at home, check this out delicious recipe.
For anyone traveling to eat, discovering new street eateries is a huge draw. Although most Ethiopian food is quite ceremonial, sambusas – the Ethiopian equivalent of samosas – are a common street food that you should try when visiting the country. These fried dumplings are usually filled with either seasoned ground beef or seasoned lentils.
3. Doro Wat
Wat, also spelled Wot, is one of the most common terms when it comes to food in Ethiopia. This general term refers to a stew made with a combination of spices, meat, and vegetables.
Of all the wat varieties, Doro Wat is the most popular. This flavorful stew combines chicken, hard-boiled eggs, tomato paste, garlic, caramelized onions, and ginger. Doro Wat is considered the Ethiopian national dish and is often served as part of a common platter with various dishes and side dishes. Try it out tonight this recipe.
Genfo is a typical Ethiopian breakfast, consisting of a porridge made from barley or wheat flour, which is eaten with a sauce made from Berbere and Niter Kibbeh. You will most likely see this dish as a mound with the butter and spice mixture in the middle for dipping. Like many Ethiopian dishes, Genfo is a community dish that most locals eat by hand, although it’s not uncommon to eat it with a fork or spoon instead.
5. Kik Alicha
Wondering what is the best Ethiopian food to try if you don’t have a high tolerance for spicy foods? Kik Alicha is a great option. This Ethiopian stew contains peas, niter kibbeh (Ethiopian flavored clarified butter) and turmeric. But unlike many Ethiopian dishes, it doesn’t contain any of the super spicy Berbere this gives dishes like Doro Wat their characteristic kick.
6. Misir Wat
If you are looking for a vegetarian dish with a kick, Misir Wat is the place for you. This fiery stew features red lentils, berbere and niter kibbeh, as well as garlic, onion and tomato paste. Often served as part of a vegetarian or mixed communal platter, Misir Wat is best eaten in good company and plenty of injera.
Another Ethiopian must-see, Tibs refers to various cuts of beef or lamb fried in butter, onions, and garlic. Tibs can be hot or mild and may or may not come with vegetables depending on the dish and restaurant.
One of the most dramatic and delicious ways to enjoy the true ceremony of Ethiopian food is to order Shekla Tibs, where the meat arrives at your table roasted in a clay pot stoked with hot coals. While Tibs remains a special meal to commemorate holidays and events, you will see many people ordering this dish in noisy bars in Addis Ababa and beyond. Make your own tibs with it tonight Recipe.
8. Shiro Wat
Shiro Wat, like Doro Wat, is a popular Ethiopian dish that you are sure to find on a combination platter. Made from ground chickpea flour cooked with onions, garlic, tomatoes, chili peppers and ginger, Shiro Wat has a smooth and creamy hummus-like texture that is perfect for eating with shredded injera.
If your taste is steak rather than stew, be sure to try kitfo. This Ethiopian beef tartare is made from raw ground beef flavored with niter kibbeh and a blend of spices called mitmita. It is often served with one mild cheese called Ayib or gomen (cooked vegetables) and of course injera.
If you are looking for and want the full experience try the raw version, it’s best to go to an Ethiopian restaurant specializing in kitfo like Yohanness Kitfo in Addis Ababa. If you are not sure about raw meat, you can always ask for kitfo leb leb, which means “warmed, not cooked”, or for kitfo betam leb leb, which means “very heated”, ie cooked!
Combining green lentils, chopped tomatoes, green chilies and red onions, Azifa is Ethiopia’s answer to Pico de Gallo. Often served as part of a combination platter, this vegan and gluten-free dish is ideal as a starting point for adventurous eaters who still want to sample the flavors of Ethiopia.
Fuul is a popular dish in East Africa and the Middle East made from the steamed and flavored fava beans that many Ethiopians eat for breakfast. Regular fuul is made for you and is served with an endless supply of fresh bread to eat and dip into. In contrast, Special Fuul is big enough to share and served with tomatoes, green chilli, onions, egg, yogurt, and sometimes avocado.
12. Siga Wat
Siga Wat is similar to Doro Wat, but contains beef instead of chicken. Thanks to a lot of Berbere spice mix, this stew is hot and fiery. However, there is also a milder version that is made without the Berbere. If you’re looking for a touch of spice, the dish is called Keye Siga Wat, while the non-spicy version is called Alecha Siga Wat.
Chechebsa, also called fit-fit, is another popular breakfast in Ethiopia, although it is one of the few dishes that is not eaten with your hands. Instead, see the locals using a spoon to enjoy this combo of shredded and lightly fried injera and onions in a tangy red sauce and served with honey and eggs not dissimilar to the popular Moroccan food shakshuka.
14. Yetsom Beyaynetu
While not a specific Ethiopian dish, you will see Yetsom Beyaynetu often on the menu of restaurants across Ethiopia, especially on Wednesdays and Fridays. It refers to a mixed platter of vegan dishes served with injera, Yetsom means “fasting” and Beyaynetu means “a little bit of everything”. While it’s intended for locals who obey religious rules, it’s also the perfect way to sample a range of meat-free Ethiopian dishes all in one go.
15. Ethiopian coffee
While it’s not an Ethiopian food, coffee is such an important part of Ethiopian culture that we had to include it.
In stark contrast to the take-away coffees we drink alone in Western societies, in Ethiopia drinking coffee is a ceremonial social event where the beans are washed, roasted and ground before they are brewed in a traditional clay coffee pot called a jebena. Once done, the host pours the coffee into cups for everyone to enjoy along with traditional Ethiopian snacks. It is also considered rude to go without at least three cups of coffee, as Ethiopians believe that after these three rounds, your mind will transform.
Try this Ethiopian food at home or abroad
If you think it might take you a while before you are lucky enough to travel to Ethiopia to enjoy these dishes with the locals, don’t worry! The growing popularity of Ethiopian food means it is becoming increasingly easier to find Ethiopian restaurants near you.
AAll you have to do is find “Ethiopian food near me”. and you are sure to find a place to try these delicious treats for yourself. And thanks to this guide, you now have a much better idea of what to order and how to eat it!
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