- Ethiopian food has something for everyone. With equal billing given to bright vegetarian food and rich, savory meats, an Ethiopian meal often incorporates many dishes at one time, all meant to be enjoyed together and mopped up with the ubiquitous flatbread, injera, available at every meal. You can expect to find many saucy delicious dishes presented together and enjoyed over a long, lovely meal.
- Ethiopian culture is centered around hospitality, particularly in its culinary presentation. Food is meant to be enjoyed with family and friends, and guests can expect to be offered a generous meal in any home. An Ethiopian mealtime tradition is offering a gursha, or feeding a bite to friend or neighbor, offered by hand, as that is the traditional way of eating.
- Ethiopian food is built upon years of history, and even modern interpretations of the cuisine stick closely to the tenets of the original cuisine. Ethiopia is the largest pre-colonization Christian country in Africa. In this religious country, many meals without dairy or fish are consumed on certain days, making Ethiopian cuisine an abundant, delicious choice for vegans and vegetarians.
If you have eaten Ethiopian food, you have eaten injera. This fermented, spongy flatbread is more than an accompaniment to meals: it is a utensil and vessel in itself. A multitude of Ethiopian dishes are often presented directly on injera, and then diners can rib off pieces of the bread to scoop up the various dishes and get the food to their mouths. Made with teff, an ancient grain, this bread is incredibly high in protein and calcium– and pretty tasty, to boot.
STEP AWAYYY FROM THE RESTAURANT:
Great food abounds in Ethiopian cities like Addis Ababa, from home cooking to street food to restaurants. For a truly Ethiopian experience, make sure to take a pause from eating and hit up a coffee shop, which residents take very seriously. The country produces some of the best coffee in the world and coffee shops, big or small, are great for people-watching and getting a glimpse of everyday Ethiopian life. Coffee is also served in the home in coffee ceremonies, where people have a chance to share and catch up with neighbors and friends.
BRING IT HOME:
This recipe is inspired by Azeb Woldemichael. Originally from Ethiopia, she now works at Mazi Mas, a pop up restaurant in London that employs migrant women from many countries. You can read more about Azeb and the Mazi Mas project here.
One of the most recognizable vegetarian Ethiopian dishes, this stew takes the humble lentil, a plentiful Ethiopian crop, and transforms it into something incredibly rich and delicious. With warm spices and a sweet kick from caramelized onions, this dish is a wonderful entry point to the expansive world of Ethiopian cuisine. Serve with rice, or, of course, injera.
3 tbs. butter
2 onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs. tomato paste
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes with liquid
3 tbs. berbere spice mix (found in most grocery stores or African markets)
1 1/2 cups red lentils
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
Plain yogurt, cilantro, rice and injera for serving
Saute onions in butter over medium heat until soft and beginning to brown deeply, about 15 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes and tomato paste and continue to stir until tomato paste caramelizes, about 5 more minutes. Add berbere and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add lentils and stir to coat in spice mixture. Pour in broth and bring mixture to a simmer. Let cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until lentils have softened and mixture has a porridge-like consistency. Serve over rice or injera and top with yogurt and cilantro.