Ethiopia is a landlocked state in East Africa. The short periods in the 19th and 20th centuries, when Europeans strengthened on its territory, could not influence the culture of the country. Therefore, Ethiopian cuisine has managed to preserve its national character.
About Ethiopian cuisine
Tourists traveling in Ethiopia can taste both aromatic vegetable and unusual meat dishes. In some restaurants, guests offered camel delicacies and even exotic such as reptiles and insects.
Long-term isolation and its impact on Ethiopian cuisine
In the middle of the XIX century. a regular army created in Ethiopia. This allowed the country to resist the European colonialists and maintain independence.
Religion has become another reason for cultural isolation. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa where the majority of the population is Christian. Thanks to these factors, culinary traditions have remained virtually unchanged since ancient times.
Vivid features of the dishes
Ethiopian culinary traditions are unusual for tourists from all over the world. Both the food itself and the way it served amaze you.
Ethiopians add abundant spices and mixtures to their food. For the inhabitants of the country, the strong pungency of the dishes is familiar, but it can shock a person who tries local dishes for the first time.
The main spice mix called berbere. Its composition may vary slightly. Traditionally, it includes several types of hot peppers, ginger, cloves, coriander, rue berries and azhgon.
It is possible to add cumin, turmeric, garlic, onion, basil and other herbs. In its finished form, berbere is a powder or paste. This seasoning used for both meat and vegetable dishes.
Another common spice mixture, mitmitta, looks like a red-orange powder. It contains chili powder, cardamom, cloves and salt.
The main reason for the active use of spicy ingredients in cooking is the hot climate. Products quickly deteriorate at high temperatures, and spices with bactericidal and disinfecting effects have been saving Ethiopians from poisoning since ancient times.
To soften the pungency, the dish may include some cheese or curd, which have a neutral, sour taste. Boiled eggs also used for this purpose.
Lack of cutlery
When preparing food, Ethiopians use knives to cut the ingredients or a spoon to stir them, but they do not eat them.
The role of a plate played by a large yngera tortilla: meat or vegetable stew, sauce or porridge are laid on it. Small pieces, broken off from the cake, replace the appliances.
The knife at the table used only for cutting raw meat. For example, during a wedding ceremony, newlyweds allowed to taste pieces from the carcass of a newly killed animal.
In Ethiopia, they eat without cutlery, using a flatbread.
An abundance of lean food
60% of the country’s inhabitants belong to the Ethiopian Christian Church, more than 30% to Islam. Food laws play an important role in both religions. Both Christians who follow the Old Testament prohibitions and Muslims not allowed to eat pork.
Ethiopian believers observe such a number of fasts that most of the year meat products are unclaimed. In addition, due to the poverty of the population, not every family can afford them. Therefore, the basis of the menu made up of dishes of plant origin.
Ethiopians eat reptile meat. It prepared in the same way as any other: it stewed, baked or cutlets made. Besides small reptiles such as snakes and lizards, crocodilatine is of particular interest.
Most often they eat the tail of a reptile and the dorsal part, sometimes the paws. Crocodile fillet has a pleasant fish-like chicken flavor and delicate texture.
Scarce food variety
Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. The reasons for this are overcrowding, an agricultural economy and an arid climate over vast areas of the country.
Most of the population does not have the opportunity to eat a variety of foods. Its menu is based on grains, legumes and root vegetables. Locals eat meat only on holidays, and for them everything that they can catch becomes an additional source of protein: insects, arachnids, reptiles. Onions, herbs and wild herbs help to diversify the diet.
Wealthy Ethiopians can afford meat, vegetables, fruits.
Health Benefits of Ethiopian Foods
Ethiopian cuisine contains many herbal ingredients, rich in vitamins and minerals.
Hot spices speed up metabolism and prevent excess weight. Fermented milk products aid digestion and are a source of calcium.
Traditional Injera cakes have a laconic composition – only teff flour and water. Tef does not contain gluten, and it contains several times more iron than wheat.
Numerous fasts prohibit the consumption of animal fats, so vegetable oils used in cooking. The most common oilseed crop is the Abyssinian gvisocia, or nougat. The seeds of this plant are similar in their properties to sunflower, are rich in linoleic acid, contain protein, calcium and iodine.
Basic cooking methods
Ethiopians often cook over charcoal, such as roasting coffee beans or baking tortillas.
A hearty soup made from legumes, lentils and beans. Milk used to make cottage cheese, cheese, butter. They eat boiled eggs. Common methods of preparing second courses are stewing and frying.
Some traditional meat recipes do not include cooking. This is steamed meat, which is eaten during the wedding ritual, as well as kytfo – finely chopped raw minced meat, abundantly seasoned with hot spices.
Fermentation used to prepare kocho, a type of flatbread. The crushed mass of enset false banana leaves kept in the ground for six months. The result is a whitish product that resembles cottage cheese with a moldy smell. This dough rolled into a pancake and then baked over the fire.
Traditions of national cuisine
Ethiopian cuisine has ancient traditions, the nature of which is due to both climatic and socio-cultural characteristics of the region:
- Active use of spices, including hot ones.
- Lack of cutlery while eating.
- The custom of “gursha”: the host feeds the guest with a piece of yngera, taking it with his hand, thus showing his favor to the visitor.
- The coffee ceremony can either end a meal or be a stand-alone ritual.
- Food traditions associated with religion. Ethiopian Christians abstain from food of animal origin for about 200 days a year. Apart from their main fasting periods, they do not eat meat products on Wednesdays and Fridays. On these days, believers can satisfy their hunger only in the afternoon. Muslims, in addition to the annual month of Ramadan, fast during daylight hours on Mondays and Thursdays.
Ethiopians consider their country to be the birthplace of coffee. There is no documentary evidence of this, but the fact that an invigorating drink appeared in Central Africa – Ethiopia or Yemen – leaves no doubt. From there, it spread first to the Near and Middle East, and then to Italy, Indonesia and America.
Initially, coffee was made from the dried shell of the beans, then they began to roast it.
The etymology of the name of the drink goes back to the Arabic qahwa, which, according to one version, formed from the own name of the Ethiopian region – Kaffa.
The drink of vigor repeatedly persecuted by religious organizations in different countries, who considered it an intoxicating potion. It forbidden to drink by the Ethiopian Christian Church from the 12th to the 19th centuries, but then it rehabilitated by Emperor Menelik, a great coffee lover.
Now this drink considered a national treasure of Ethiopia. It drunk by the entire population of the country in a few mugs at any time of the day.
The infusion can be different: sweet, seasoned with spices, salt or oil, but always strong and thick. Sometimes a little milk added to it.
The coffee brewing ceremony is one of the symbols of Ethiopian hospitality. It begins with roasting the beans over a fire, after which the participants inhale their rich aroma.
This followed by grinding the beans in a mortar. The resulting mixture brewed in a special earthen vessel – jaben. Every family has such dishes and passes down from generation to generation. During the ceremony, incense smoked in the room, creating a blissful atmosphere.
The finished drink served in small cups. The guest needs to drink at least 3. After pouring the coffee into cups, the host adds water to the jaben. The third portion is already quite weak in concentration, but it has a ritual meaning – the guest’s blessing.
Ethiopian national dishes – what to try
Ethiopian cuisine includes both vegetarian and meat dishes. Each guest of the country will be able to find a treat to their liking.
Engera are flat cakes with a diameter of about 50 cm, traditional bread made from flour and water. Outwardly, they resemble European pancakes. The flour for their production made from the teff plant, a cereal native to Ethiopia.
This grain crop occupies about 30% of all fields in the country. The dough for yngera is infused for 1-3 days, during which it sours without adding yeast.
For baking, use a clay baking sheet – mogogo. Almost no meal is complete without yngera. The structure of the cakes is loose, porous, and the taste is sour.
Lenten dish gomen consists of boiled collard greens, finely chopped and supplemented with vegetable oil and spices. Chili pepper used from spices, so the food turns out to be spicy.
Ethiopian Christians eat it on the Meskel religious festival. Gomen served along with soft, crumbly aibe cheese, designed to soften the spiciness of the dish.
To prepare the sauce, garlic fried in oil combined with a stewed onion, water and chickpea flour. After boiling all the components, spices added to the mixture and insisted for some time. The thick sauce served with yngera, pouring it into the middle of the flatbread and dipping its pieces into it.
One of the few dishes eaten with a spoon called chechebsa, or whale. Stir-fried yngera chunks in berbere sauce are a popular breakfast in Ethiopia.
Baiticha resembles hummus common in the Middle East. For its preparation, boiled chickpeas crushed, adding spices and oil during the process. Eat cold, spreading pasta on a flat cake.
Wat refers to a traditional Ethiopian stew made from meat, vegetable or fish ingredients. Atkilt wat is a vegetable version of the dish. It consists of stewed potatoes, cabbage, onions and carrots. In the cooking process, animal or vegetable fat and berbere spices used.
Mushrooms contain a large amount of protein, which is why they are a popular lenten dish among the religious part of the population. In Ethiopia, there are both species familiar to the inhabitant of central Russia, such as champignons, boletus, chanterelles, and specifically African termitomycetes growing on termite mounds. To prepare Ingudei tibbs, chopped mushrooms fried in oil with onions and spices.
Tybs is meat – beef, lamb or goat meat – cut into longitudinal pieces and fried in fat with onions and green hot peppers. The dish may contain additional vegetables.
Tybs is a large dish with meat and vegetables.
Firfir shiro yngera slices stewed with shiro sauce. The dish considered ready when the cake completely absorbs the aromatic thick liquid.
It is extremely difficult to be in Ethiopia and never drink at least a cup of Arabica coffee.
But among the traditional drinks there are also more exotic ones, which tasted only in this country:
- bulla – a hot tonic drink made from the crushed root of enseta – a plant of the banana family.
- atmet – a thick, hearty drink, for the preparation of which barley and oatmeal mixed with water, sugar and spiced butter until a homogeneous consistency;
- tej – mead;
- tella – a beer drink made from barley and teff;
- katicala – a strong alcohol made from millet or corn.
Many Ethiopian food prepared at home. The exceptions are some types of meat delicacies and local cereals, which will be problematic to find in stores in other countries.
The Ethiopian character will help give food the Berbera spice, which purchased either ready-made or assembled on your own.
- garlic – several cloves;
- onion – 1 pc .;
- olive oil – 1 tbsp l .;
- water – 200 ml;
- chickpea flour – 3-4 tbsp. l .;
- berbere seasoning – 1 tsp
- Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Fry it in olive oil. For cooking, it is convenient to use a saucepan or other container with high sides
- Add finely chopped onion. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add water and chickpea flour, stir and cook for another 30-40 minutes. Water topped up while boiling.
- At the end of cooking, add berbere and leave for half an hour or an hour so that the sauce saturated with the aroma of spices.
- Serve with a flat cake. May served with herbs and chopped tomatoes.
- onions – 2 pcs.;
- tomatoes – 3 pcs.;
- green beans – 4 cups;
- carrots – 3 pcs.;
- tomato paste – 100 g;
- ginger, garlic – 2 tsp each. crushed;
- vegetable oil – 4 tbsp. l.
- Chop the onion into rings. Cut the tomatoes into thin slices and the carrots into slices.
- Fry the onions until translucent in a deep frying pan. Add oil and tomato paste.
- Put carrots and beans in a frying pan, simmer under a closed lid for 10-15 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, ginger, garlic and salt.
- Simmer all vegetables until soft.
And finally, advice. In Ethiopia, it is not customary to eat alone. If it so happens that you travel alone and there no one to keep you company, invite guests at neighboring tables to share a meal with you – this considered good form.