No recollection of my time in Ethiopia would be complete without remembering the delicious food, strong coffee and the warmth of her people.
Three things are said to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum and the castor bean.
Add to that my LOVE of coffee and it seems only fair that I begin my Ethiopian food experience, by telling you about the coffee.
I do acknowledge and appreciate that these days you can get a decent cup of coffee just about anywhere. While the same kind of convenience is found in Ethiopia, it’s about more than just making a brew. There is something utterly special about a coffee ceremony, the skills required to perform the ritual is often passed down from generation to generation.
The beans are treated with such respect for the treasure it holds. I was truly mesmerised and got great joy from witnessing the expert roasting of the coffee beans, then it’s grinding, brewing and pouring.
Should you like your brew, dark and sugar free, its caffeine nirvana.
Ethiopian food is also a joy to experience, while there are an array of meat and chicken dishes on offer, there is also no shortage of yummy veggie options, largely due to the country's Orthodox Christians who have set fasting days. Pork isn’t really an option here, because of both Christian and Muslim beliefs.
The two easiest things to remember about Ethiopian food:
Injera, a flat bread made from Teff flour.
Berbere, a spice mix consisting of up to sixteen ingredients, it makes everything taste better!
Injera is a staple, it’s even offered to you at breakfast. And it’s really one of those dishes you either like or hate. Its sourish, but not overwhelmingly so. You put your choice of mains on the injera, and use it to eat your meal. Fingers are used here instead of cutlery. You will also often see people eating off one plate.
My favourite dish is Shiro – made from chickpea flour – its thick and spicy, thanks to the berbebe sauce added to it. It goes really well with the injera.
On our first night in the capital Addis Abba, we went to an authentic Ethiopian restaurant, which had a massive buffet consisting of very national dish, which was a great way of experimenting and working out what one prefers.
Some of the other dishes I tried:
Wat/Wot – is basically a stew made with either meat or vegetables.
Kitfo – is meat that’s been bashed, looks kind of like a mince dish. The meat is warmed up not cooked unless you ask for that. It’s a treat for Ethiopians, but wasn’t a dish I wanted to try again. I like my meat well cooked.
Shiro Firfir – injera pieces that have a spicy berbere sauce, most often served for brekkie.
Be adventurous, try as many options as you can.
We were also introduced to honey wine or Tej. Its' sweet, fermented and powerful, so don’t be fooled by its name. Apart from the food, we also enjoyed a wonderful evening of traditional music and dance. I even got a private lesson in how to do the Ethiopian shoulder dance better known as "Eskista"Welo. Let’s just say, I have rhythm but not nearly enough. It was all very entertaining and a great way to step into holiday mode and prepare for the rest of our stay!
We often tagged along with our tour guide & driver for lunch, which is a good way of experiencing eateries off the tourist route. On one of these lunch breaks, I discovered Ethiopian Fasolia, which is sautéed green beans, carrots, potatoes and onions. It soon became a firm lunch time favourite, every time I ordered this dish, I was guaranteed a plate of deliciousness!
Another stand out meal, was a simple tomato and cheese pizza, chased down by an ice cold DASHEN beer which was more to my taste than honey wine. We were out in Axum, in Northern Ethiopia and it was far too hot to sleep. I had read about this new pizzeria run by two young entrepreneurs. So there we found ourselves near a bus station, at a small shop filled with trendy youngsters, eating one of the best pizza’s I have ever tasted.
These young Ethiopian entrepreneurs are the ones to watch, they are disrupting the local food scene!
All my travels are self funded.
My travel itinerary was customise designed by Boundless Ethiopia Tours, to cover the areas and activities of interest to me. I highly recommend them if you are considering a visit to this wonderful country, they are friendly, professional and knowledgeable.
For more information: http://boundlessethiopia.com/
I flew to Ethiopia on Ethiopian Airlines: https://www.ethiopianairlines.com/AA/EN