Food in Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, injera is widespread. It is a spongy, tangy-flavored bread produced from the grain teff, which grows in Ethiopia’s highlands. It has the appearance and feel of a crepe or pancake. It’s served with wot (or wat), which are traditional stews prepared with spices, pork, or lentils. Doro (chicken) wat, yebeg (lamb) wat, and asa (fish) wat are all popular.
The injera is served straight on a big circular dish or tray, with wat arranged symmetrically around a center item. The different wats are eaten with additional injera pieces provided on a side dish. Injera is eaten with the right hand; tear a big piece of injera off the side dish and scoop up one of the wat flavors on the main platter. Eating with the left hand is considered impolite since it is historically used for personal hygiene and therefore considered dirty. Firfir: fried, shredded injera is another classic injera meal. It may be served with or without meat, as well as with a variety of vegetables.
If you prefer vegetarian cuisine, try the shiro wat, an oily bean stew served with injera. Shiro is popular during Ethiopian “fasting days,” when pious Ethiopians consume a mostly vegetarian diet.
Tibbs or tibs, spicy beef or lamb cooked in butter, is one of Ethiopia’s most renowned meals (nitre kibbeh). Tibs are available in a variety of forms, the most popular of which are “chikina tibs,” which are fried in a sauce with berbere spice, onions, bell peppers, and tomato, and zil-zil tibs, which are a more deep fried breaded variant served with tangy sauces. Kitfo, minced beef seasoned with chilli, is also well-known. You may eat it raw (the preferred method locally, although there is a danger of parasites), leb-leb (lightly cooked), or completely cooked. It comes with ayeb (local cheese) and spinach. Kitfo derivatives, such as camel meat, may be found in the Harar area. Many restaurants that offer kitfo have it in their name (e.g., Sami Kitfo, Mesob Kitfo), although they usually serve more than simply raw meat.
For the more discriminating tourist, virtually every restaurant in Ethiopia offers spaghetti (due to the brief Italian occupation) – but not in the way that Italians would recognize it. Italian eateries abound, as do so-called “American style pizza and burger” joints that have nothing in do with traditional American pizzas and burgers. Not just expatriates, but also Ethiopians, continue to express a desire for more American-style eating in Ethiopia. There are restaurants, such as the Country Kitchen (not the franchise), that offer American-style fried chicken and wings and are managed by an Ethiopian-born and raised in the United States. Metro Pizza in the Dagim Millenium Hotel serves delicious pizza. The restaurant at Addis Guest House is managed by an Ethiopian-born American called Yonas and offers a decent variety of western cuisine, including delicious French toast for morning. It’s worth the journey simply to meet Yonas, who may be the finest tour guide in town. There are “Kaldi’s Coffee Houses” all throughout the city. They are mostly Starbucks knockoffs, but they do a good job of it. Excellent coffee, excellent pastries, and excellent ice cream. Westerners or Ethiopians raised in the West may be found all around the city, and they are all very helpful.
Berbere, Ethiopia’s natural spice that contains fenugreek; mittmitta, another pungent spice; and rosemary, which is used in virtually all meat in the nation, are all common spices. Even when cooked properly, most local meats are of low quality and stringy and rough. Luxury hotels and restaurants often import meat from Kenya, where it is of considerably better quality.
Drinks in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is the ancient home of the coffee bean, and its coffee is regarded as some of the finest in the world. Traditionally, coffee is served in a formal ceremony that includes drinking at least three cups of coffee and eating popcorn. Being welcomed inside someone’s house for the ceremony is a particular honor or show of respect. Ethiopians like their coffee freshly brewed and black, extremely strong, with the grounds still within, or as a macchiato, the country’s most popular kind of coffee.
The coffee beans are roasted in a flat pan over charcoal in preparation for the ritual. After that, the beans are crushed using a pestle and mortar. The coffee is prepared in a clay coffee pot with water and is deemed ready when it begins to boil. Coffee in Ethiopia is served black with sugar; certain ethnic groups may add butter or salt to their coffee, but outsiders are usually not allowed to do so. Be warned: if you drink coffee in Ethiopia, you will always be disappointed in the quality of coffee when you return home. Ethiopian coffee is very fresh since it is typically roasted the same day it is eaten. After leaving Ethiopia, you will fantasize about coffee for weeks.
Tej is a honey wine akin to mead that is often consumed in taverns, particularly in a tej beit (tej bar). It tastes a lot like mead, but it usually has a local leaf added to it during the brewing process, which gives it a powerful medicinal flavor that some people find unpleasant. Consuming this beverage is considered masculine.
There are many Ethiopian beers to choose from, all of which are very palatable. Many Ethiopian government-owned breweries are currently controlled by Western beverage firms such as Heineken (Harar beer) and Diageo (Meta beer). The most widely available beer in Ethiopia is St. George, or “Giorgis,” named after Ethiopia’s patron saint, and is a light lager comparable to American beers that has been produced in Addis Ababa since 1922. Ethiopian brewers compete with numerous microbreweries in the West, and most beers are priced around USD1.
Ethiopian wines, both red and white, exist but are usually regarded as unpalatable by outsiders.