Ethiopia has almost always been an independent country, with the exception of a brief period under Italian rule. In Ethiopia, many ethnic groups coexist, and more than 100 languages or dialects are spoken, making up a mix of customs and cultures, and with those, cuisine.
Ethiopia is rich in its diversity of cultures and religions, and its history has wars, diseases, droughts, poverty, civil conflict, and hunger. All these events have left their mark on the inhabitants, making them appreciate all the little comforts people from the western side of the world take for granted.
What do Ethiopians Eat?
When talking about food, names like injera and wat appear. Injera bread is a staple food. It is made with teff flour, a cereal with round, dark and tiny grains that are grown in the highlands. The bread is flat and resembles a Mexican tortilla, but it is much spongier and has a slightly more acid taste, making it, completely different.
The dough of the injera bread is cooked in a saucepan until it becomes soft and elastic and despite being made just like a pancake, it is only cooked on one side. This is the way injera bread has been prepared for the last 1000 years, and remember, Ethiopians love their traditions and if you’re trying to replicate their recipes, you have to follow their traditions too.
At lunchtime, a large rounded injera is placed on the table and hot food is placed on top of the bread. The diners wrap the hot food with a piece of injera, as a cover, and put it in their mouths. There are no trays to serve, plates to eat or cutlery. The injera bread fulfills the double function of food and utensil.
Wat, one of the most famous stews is usually flavored with berbere, a mixture of spicy spices, and chili peppers. Lamb or chicken are the meats of choice, since very few people, if any, eat pork in Ethiopia. You can also prepare this type of stew with fish.
Many dishes are cooked with niter kibbeh, a butter flavored with garlic, onions, and spices. Vegetable stews, vegetables, and legumes are very popular on days when meat is not eaten. In this case, vegetable oil is used instead of seasoned butter.
The Famous Kitfo
Kitfo is minced cow beef, raw or very undercooked, which is paired with a kind of especially spicy paprika mixed with cardamom and other condiments, called mitmita, and niter kibbeh, that singular butter we talked about before. Forgetting the finest flatbread that serves as a base, this elaboration arrives at the tables in a clay pot and is eaten (being an exception) with a spoon made of bone.
Going further with the meat and vegetables of the stews you can choose to sauté instead of stew to get, with a little salad, another essential Ethiopian snack, the Tibs. If it arrives with an addition of vegetables, it will be considered to be its special variant.