Food is an integral part of a people’s culture, and when it comes to distinctive dishes, Ethiopia stands out among other countries. While you might beg to differ, Ethiopian dishes belong at the top of world cuisines. This is due to the unique flavors, spices, and culture buried in their dishes. For Ethiopians, meal times are like a ceremony as everyone sits around as a family to savor a delicious meal. To get the best experience, get ready to have messy fingers, as cutleries aren’t an option. If you are away from home, let’s reminisce on good times with these Ethiopian dishes selected just for you.
What Makes Ethiopian Food Unique?
Ethiopian meals are distinctive, due to the way Ethiopians cook, which uses generous amounts of unique blends of spices, giving their food a distinct taste. Berbere, for example, is an essential ingredient in Ethiopian cooking. Berbere is a mixture of ground red chili pepper, fenugreek, cinnamon, allspice, garlic, and many other spices. Another popular spice is is the miitmita spice, which is an orange-red spice mix, that has similar ingredients as Berbere spice mix but with hotter chili peppers.
Something like injera is a popular staple in Ethiopian restaurants and homes and is a rubbery, sour, and slightly bitter flatbread made from teff flour. It’s so flat that you could mistake it for a plate. Injera is used to serve a delicious meal of lentils, spicy stew, curries and meats known as Misir wat. The spicy stews create a contrast with the bitter-sour taste of Injera, to give an irresistible combination. Another distinctive item, is Ethiopian coffee, which serves as a great dessert that accompanies most Ethiopian dishes.
The Healthy Nature of Ethiopian Dishes
From natural herbs and spices to a balanced mix of legumes, vegetables and meat, Ethiopian meals are healthy options at any time. They’re often spicy, with no unnatural spices added and if you’re following a healthy diet, you should try nutrient-dense and low-fat Ethiopian meals. For example, although made from flour, Injera contains low calories, so consuming a large amount of Injera bread and Wat won’t distort your weight loss journey. Another weight loss plus for you is the spice, which boost your metabolism. With Ethiopian cuisine, you can simultaneously eat healthy and hearty food and not worry about gaining extra inches on your waistline.
Popular Ethiopian Dishes You Should Try Out
Now that you know about Ethiopian cuisines’ unique flavors and healthy nature, read on to find some popular Ethiopian dishes you should try out. If you’re an Ethiopian in the diaspora, these meals will remind you of home, and if you’re new, you’re welcome!
It is only right we begin this list with the famous injera bread, an Ethiopian classic made from teff flour. Teff flour is made from teff, the world’s smallest grain. To make Injera, mix teff flour with water and allow it to ferment for an average of two to three days. This fermentation gives Injera its sour taste. You can simply call this “Ethiopian flatbread.”
Sambusas are a distinct kind of Ethiopian snack that closely resemble regular samosas. While samosas are filled with peas and potatoes, Sambusas contain a filling of lentils, onions, meats, and other fillings.
Still, like samosas, the thin flaky dough is made with flour and water, and spiced with berbere. This savory dish serves as an appetizer.
You can make this tasty Ethiopian meal by sautéing sliced beef or lamb with butter, garlic, and onion. It comes in different forms, depending on the size and shape of the cuts of meat. You can prepare it with little or no veggies.
Beyenatu is also spelt as beyainatu. It is a vegetarian dish that lets you try various flavors in one sitting. Beyainatu means “a bit of every type.” It is an assortment of tasty potatoes, veggies, lentils, curries, and stews. This meal goes with Ethiopian flatbread, Injera. Ethiopia has a tradition of abstaining from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays, so beyainatu is popular in that part of Africa.
Known as one of Ethiopia’s national dishes, Doro wat is a staple reserved for celebrations. Research shows that no two Doro wat recipes are the same, as each recipe is unique to a family. You can make this classic Ethiopian meal with chicken drumsticks or wings. It is served in a hot sauce of butter, onion, chili cardamom, and berbere. Doro wat goes with Injera, but you can pair it with rice.
Shiro is among the Ethiopian recipes you should try out. It is a lightly spiced bean or chickpea puree. This Ethiopian delicacy also contains minced onions, garlic, ground ginger or chopped tomatoes, and chili peppers.
There is also the tegabino shiro, a variation of Shiro, made with heavily spiced legumes, chickpeas, field peas or fava beans, flour, oil, or butter. Ethiopians mostly eat Shiro on fasting days —Wednesdays and Fridays— because it’s a vegan dish.
Fatira is another Ethiopian dish that’ll remind you of home. It has a thin pastry top and bottom with scrambled eggs and honey in the middle. Ethiopians serve this meal with freshly brewed Ethiopian coffee. Fatira gives you a blend of bitter, sweet, and spicy, all at once and is a staple in many Ethiopian restaurants.
Asa tibs are pieces of fish marinated in berbere spice and lime juice and then fried in sesame oil and olive oil. This Ethiopian food also contains paprika, grated ginger, and garlic. Ethiopians eat this spicy sauce with their bare hands.
Pasta Beu Injera
Pasta beu injera is an Ethiopian version of pasta. It came due to Italy’s influence on the Horn of Africa in the 1930s. This dish consists of spaghetti Bolognese made with berbere and served on Injera.
This flavorful, spicy vegetarian dish is red lentil stew made with berbere spice. Red lentil stew is a rich blend of spices and herbs. It is so abundant in Ethiopia, that it has become a common ingredient in many meals. Misir Wot also contains onions, butter, tomato paste, and garlic. For the best experience, pair with Injera.
Fuul is an Ethiopian dish made with stewed and spiced fava beans. You can serve this alongside yogurt, tomato, green chili, onion, egg, and avocado. This can further be mashed together and seasoned with salt, additional spices, and fresh chili.
This is a porridge-like Ethiopian breakfast meal made from barley. It is served as a round-shaped mound with a hole in the middle. The mound is then filled with Niter kibbeh— a dipping sauce made of butter, red peppers, and pulses.
Ethiopian cuisine is so versatile, which means there is something for everyone. You are sure to find a wide array of options to select from at events. Even if you prefer to eat your meals raw, there are meals made with raw beef, such as kitfo and tere siga.
And if you’re not Ethiopian, you can get adventurous and try these meals, the next time you get the chance. Who knows, you just might get hooked because the taste of these Ethiopian food is sheer magic.
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