Ethiopian Food is one of the world’s best kept secrets. It is a spicy mix of vegetable and lentil stews and slow-simmered meats. Ethiopia is known as “The land of bread and honey” and has a wide and wonderful choice of recipes from its diverse cultural mix of people and languages. Ethiopian cuisine የኢትዮጵያ ምግብ characteristically consists of vegetable and often very spicy meat dishes. This is usually in the form of wat (also w’et or wot), a thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread, made out of fermented teff flour.
Ethiopians eat exclusively with their right hands, using pieces of injera to pick up bites of entrées and side dishes.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church prescribes a number of fasting (tsom, Ge’ez: ጾም ṣōm) periods, including Wednesdays, Fridays, and the entire Lenten season, so Ethiopian cuisine contains many dishes that are vegan.
A typical dish consists of injera accompanied by a spicy stew, which frequently includes beef, lamb, vegetables and various types of legumes, such as lentils.
Gurage cuisine also makes use of the false banana plant (enset, Ge’ez: እንሰት inset), a type of ensete. The plant is pulverized and fermented to make a bread-like food called qocho or kocho (Ge’ez: ቆጮ ḳōč̣ō), which is eaten with kitfo. The root of this plant may be powdered and prepared as a hot drink called bulla (Ge’ez: ቡላ būlā), which is often given to those who are tired or ill. Another typical Gurage preparation is coffee with butter (kebbeh). Kita herb bread is also baked.
Coffee is also a large part of Ethiopian culture and cuisine. After every meal, a coffee ceremony is served. Each variation is named by appending the main ingredient to the type of wat (e.g. kek alicha wat). However, the word keiy is usually not necessary, as the spicy variety is assumed when it is omitted (e.g. doro wat). The term atkilt wat is sometimes used to refer to all vegetable dishes, but a more specific name can also be used (as in dinich’na caroht wat, which translates to “potatoes and carrots stew”; but notice the word “atkilt” is usually omitted when using the more specific term).
“Tibs” Meat along with vegetables are sautéed to make tibs (also tebs, t’ibs, tibbs, etc., Ge’ez: ጥብስ ṭibs). Tibs is served in a variety of manners, and can range from hot to mild or contain little to no vegetables. There are many variations of the delicacy, depending on type, size or shape of the cuts of meat used. The mid-18th century European visitor to Ethiopia, Remedius Prutky, describes tibs as a portion of grilled meat served “to pay a particular compliment or show especial respect to someone.” This is perhaps still true as the dish is still prepared today to commemorate special events and holidays.
Fit-fit or fir-fir is a common breakfast dish. It is made from shredded injera or kitcha stir-fried with spices or wat. Another popular breakfast food is fatira. The delicacy consists of a large fried pancake made with flour, often with a layer of egg. It is eaten with honey. Chechebsa (or kita firfir) resembles a pancake covered with berbere and niter kibbeh, or other spices, and may be eaten with a spoon.
Genfo is a kind of porridge, which is another common breakfast dish. It is usually served in a large bowl with a dug-out made in the middle of the genfo and filled with spiced niter kibbeh. A variation of ful, a fava bean stew with condiments, served with baked rolls instead of injera, is also common for breakfast.