The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Cuisine of Ethiopia

Ethiopian cuisine consists of various vegetable or meat side dishes and entrees, usually a wat or thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread, which is 50 cm (20 inches) in diameter and made out of fermented teff flour. One does not eat with utensils, but instead uses injera (always with the right hand) to scoop up the entrees and side dishes.

Traditional Ethiopian cuisine employs no pork of any kind, as most Ethiopians are either Muslims or Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, and are thus prohibited from eating pork. Furthermore, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church prescribes a number of fasting (tsom) periods, including Wednesdays, Fridays, and the entire Lenten season, so Ethiopian cuisine contains many vegetarian (ye'tsom) dishes.

Berbere , a combination of powdered chili and other spices (somewhat analogous to Indian curry), is an important ingredient used in many dishes. Also essential is niter kebbeh , 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 in a pot. Once the onions have softened, the cook adds niter kebbeh (or, in the case of vegetarian dishes, vegetable oil). Following this, the cook adds berbere to make a spicy kai (red) wat, or may omit the berbere for a mild aletcha wat. (In the event that the berbere is particularly spicy, the cook may elect to add it before the kibbeh or oil so that the berbere will cook longer and become milder.) Finally, the cook adds meat such as beef (siga), chicken (doro), or lamb (beg); pulses such as split peas (kek) or lentils (misr); or vegetables such as potatoes (dinich).

Alternately, rather than being prepared as a stew, meat or vegetables may be sautéed to make tebs.

Another distinctive Ethiopian dish is ketfo (frequently listed as kifto), which consists of raw (or rare) ground beef marinated in mitmita (very spicy chili powder) and niter kibbeh.

Gurage cuisine additionally makes use of the false banana plant (enset), a type of ensete. The plant is pulverized and fermented to make a bread-like food called kocho, which is eaten with ketfo. The root of this plant may be powderized and prepared as a hot drink called bula, which is often given to those who are tired or ill.

See also: cuisine

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Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13