- Ethiopian cuisine is one of the most fascinating and distinctive cuisines around the globe and continues to woo both local and international food lovers.
- The foundation of the vast majority of Ethiopian meals is injera, a giant grey spongey pancake-like bread.
- Ethiopian injera is made from tef -- the world's smallest grain -- which Ethiopians have grown and obsessed about for millennia.
Ethiopian cuisine is one of the most fascinating and distinctive cuisines around the globe and continues to woo both local and international food lovers. It remains one of the world's best-kept secrets.
The foundation of the vast majority of Ethiopian meals is injera, a giant grey spongey pancake-like bread, upon whose strangely rubbery surface is served a vast array of foods, ranging from multi-coloured mounds of spicy stews to vegetable curries to cubes of raw meat.
One bonus of eating Ethiopian is that injera is made from tef -- the world's smallest grain -- which Ethiopians have grown and obsessed about for millennia. In the west it is increasingly viewed as a "super grain," up there with quinoa and spelt, being high in protein and calcium, and gluten-free.
Some beginners have, however, been known to mistake injera for the tablecloth or for kitchen flannel.
The mode of eating in Ethiopia is highly communal, with everyone gathering around a large circular metal tray of injera heavily laden with food as hands go back and forth scooping up from the various piles of foodstuffs with strips of injera torn from the edges.
After devouring Ethiopian dishes which are usually nutrient-dense and low in fat it is recommended one try’s Ethiopian coffee after the meal. Ethiopia is reportedly the birthplace of quality Arabica coffee, and its coffees are widely praised as some of the best in the world.
That said, here are 10 mouth-watering Ethiopian dishes you need to try.
They say the most important meal of the day is breakfast and Ethiopians know how to spin one.
Fatira is a popular breakfast dish popular in Ethiopia and comprises a thin pastry top and bottom with scrambled eggs and honey wedged in the middle.
It is served as a large portion which can happily feed two, it is a perfect combination of savoury and sweet.
Fatira also comes in a street food version comprising small square pieces cooked in the open on a giant frying pan in the likes of Ethiopia's beguiling eastern city of Harar.
Accompanied by freshly brewed Ethiopian coffee, there aren't many better ways to start a day of exploring Ethiopia.
Popular across East Africa and the Middle East, Ethiopian fuul is a mix of stewed and spiced fava beans eaten by many Ethiopians for breakfast.
Regular fuul is usually served as a modest portion for one -- while still filling you up -- supplemented with an endless supply of fresh bread. So-called special fuul is usually large enough to share and served with yoghurt, tomato, green chilli, onion, egg and occasionally avocado. Locals mash this together and season further with salt, additional spices and fresh chillies.
Sliced beef or lamb, pan-fried in butter, garlic and onion, tibs is one of the most popular dishes among Ethiopians.
It comes in a variety of forms, varying in type, size or shape of the cuts of meat used and can range from hot to mild or contain little to no vegetables.
One especially popular way of serving tibs is shekla tibs, in which the strips of meat arrive at your table roasting atop a clay pot stoked with hot coals -- dramatic and delicious.
Historically, tibs were served to pay a compliment or show respect to someone and it's still viewed as a special dish, hence its popularity for commemorating special events and holidays.
However today, one can order it anytime whenever one feels the urge.
This popular Ethiopian dish is not for the faint-hearted
Tere siga is one of Ethiopia's most popular delicacies in which eaters devour cubes of raw red meat. Two people typically order half a kilo of tere siga to share and accompany it with injera or bread to clasp the meat you carve off the raw slab and dipped in copious amounts of mitmita.
While most Ethiopians seem to suffer no adverse effects from eating tere siga -- the majority avow it makes them feel on top of the world -- eating raw meat does, however, carry a relative health risk such as tapeworm to salmonella infection.
Similar to French steak tartare, Kitfo is made from the leanest meat and is viewed as a big treat by ordinary Ethiopians.
The meat is minced and warmed in a pan with a little butter, mitmita (a stronger version of berbere) and sometimes thyme.
The dish is typically served leb leb (warmed, not cooked), though you can ask for it to be betam leb leb ("very warmed," which basically means cooked).
Kitfo can be served with aib (like dry cottage cheese) and gomen (minced spinach), a recommended pairing making the meal even more delicious.
One of Ethiopia's most popular vegetarian dish translates as "a bit of every type," hence your injera arrives blanketed in piles of tasty and colourful vegetables, potatoes, curries, lentil stews and more, creating a riot of colours and tastes.
Due to Ethiopia's strong tradition of religious fasting and abstaining from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays, beyainatu is widely available around the country and served just about everywhere from fancy hotels to tiny food shacks beside the road.
Many visitors to Ethiopia have been known to proclaim beyainatu as their favourite meal whether they are vegetarian or not -- beyainatu their favourite meal upon returning home.
One of the most unassuming dishes you'll encounter in Ethiopia is Shiro which can appear as not much more than slop but don't be deceived, it's very tasty.
Shiro is a lightly spiced chickpea or bean purée, and is particularly favoured by Ethiopians on fasting days.
Shiro is often prepared with the addition of minced onions, garlic and, depending upon regional variation, ground ginger or chopped tomatoes and chilli peppers, further boosting the flavour.
Made with chicken drumsticks or wings cooked and served in a hot sauce of butter, onion, chilli, cardamom and berbere Doro wot is Ethiopia's version of curry. While beef and goat are often used with wot, chicken -- doro in Amharic -- reigns as the wot champion.
In the midst of this stew incongruously bobs a hard-boiled egg. It proves a delicious accompaniment -- typically offered to a guest as a sign of respect.
For Ethiopians, doro wot is the go-to meal of celebration during national and religious festivals.
While basically just scrambled eggs, which might not sound that exciting, Ethiopia's enkulal firfir is not to be missed at breakfast.
Cooked with nitre kibe -- Ethiopian spiced butter -- it is further enhanced with a combination of green and red peppers, chilli, tomatoes and onions, all of which is scooped up with fresh tasty bread rolls, often still warm from the bakery.
A notable feature of enkulal firfir is how fantastically yellow it is, which translates into a far superior taste compared to the results of pallid egg yolks in the west. The omelette version is known as enkulal tibs. Be warned once you have had a taste of Ethiopia’s enkulal firfir you will never view scrambled eggs the same again.
Pasta beu injera
If you need a break from the endless injera -- or if your stomach is feeling tender and you need to play it safe – then Pasta beu injera is the meal for you.
Pasta beu atkilt, pasta with vegetables, is readily available across the country. One can also order pasta beu siga -- pasta with meat -- will get you something resembling a tasty spaghetti Bolognese.
One can also try pasta beu injera: a great dollop of pasta incongruously lumped in the centre of injera.
Once ready, Ethiopians stay true to tradition and only use a fork to cut the pasta into manageable bits, after which it is all scooped up with injera clasped between fingers, as usual.