The Tasteful Complexity of Ethiopian Food
Ethiopia, in East-Africa serves a lot of meat in its cuisine. The country also has an abundant supply of grains, millets and wheat.
Ethiopian cuisine borders on being a mysterious and exotic palate that may not be very familiar with Indians. Today, thanks to chefs from all over the world, global cuisines are now available almost everywhere, bringing diversity to our meals. Italian, Mexican, Middle-Eastern, Greek or Japanese, you name it and there is a restaurant that serves authentic or a fusion of these cuisines. Ethiopian cuisine entered the game rather late.
Ethiopia, an East-African country serves a lot of meat in their cuisine. Nevertheless, the versatility also offers enough dishes for vegetarians, lactose-intolerant people and even vegans. The country is abundant in grains, millets and wheat. ‘Teff’, a popular type of grain is a prominent part of the Ethiopian cuisine.
The country is often associated with poverty and famine; however their dishes are hearty and brimming with delectable flavors. Due to the lack of exposure to the varieties in African cuisines, food from the continent are all clubbed together into one entity. The truth is, there is a surprising diversity in African food staples that is overshadowed by the label of being a poor continent.
Similar to the Bohri culture that exists in India, Ethiopians also believe in the concept of communal eating. They have a large platter on which they lay out a stretchy, sour pancake called the ‘injera’, which is immensely popular. Injera is normally made out of teff. However, there are several variants, which also include wheat. The people sit around the same platter and feed each other food, which is how they show love and appreciation for one another.
The Ethiopian cuisine is dominant in delicious stews that are placed on the injera. The stews further infuse the injera and are considered the best part of the platter. The injera is torn, scooped with the stew, rolled and eaten. The Ethiopian cuisine does not serve any pork due to the religious sentiments of the local people. There are Jews, Muslims and Orthodox Christians. The coffee and alcohol served here is also prepared as per the beliefs.
STEWS, GRAVIES AND SALADS:
There are numerous dishes made in various bases. They make use of lentils, meat, vegetables, mushrooms and more. There is always a dish to match your taste buds. The spice intensity ranges from moderate to very spicy. The dishes are always well seasoned. ‘Wot’ is a staple of the Ethiopian kitchen. It is a spicy stew mostly made out of meat. The ‘berbere’ sauce is the most common base used in all dishes. It is a spicy paste made out of exotic spices and select herbs. The cayenne pepper in the sauce gives it a very enjoyable flavour. There are variants of ‘wot’. ‘Alecha’ is a mild stew that replaces the ‘berbere’ sauce with green ginger. ‘Doro’ means chicken which is very commonly used in stews. If you have a taste for steaks, ‘kitfo’ is your best bet. Raw beef is minced and mixed with a spicier version of ‘berbere’ called ‘mitmita’. If the beef is diced instead of being minced, the steak is called ‘gored gored’. Kitfo is often made on special occasions because raw meat is quite expensive and is consumed regularly only by wealthy households. Since raw meat could be difficult to eat for many, the Ethiopians have ‘leb leb’, which is a mildly cooked version. For breakfast, the Ethiopians stick to eggs in various forms.
Honey being one of the basic and easily available sweeteners of the country, is used to make pastries. They are dense and approved for those fasting (a term used when a person refrains from non-vegetarian food). The best way to end a meal is with Ethiopian coffee. Ethiopia is the place of origin for the beloved beverage. You get various types like macchiatos and espressos called ‘jebena’. Some types are seasoned with butter and salt that is an absolute delicacy. Alternatively, you can try ‘tej’, honey wine seasoned with a touch of orange blossom. Ethiopian cuisine is a delight and an experience altogether. The local eateries and stalls teach you a lot about dining with friends and family through the delightful flavours on the platter.