While some travel guides state the ethiopian cuisine as something you’d need to get used to, we can say that we totally enjoy the food here in Ethiopia! It is true that options may be limited, but especially in Addis Ababa, we can get everything we need and even as a vegetarian I am be able to find tasty dishes every day (this might be different in rural areas, although Ethiopians are familiar with the concept of fasting – a vegan diet with the exception of fish). Injeras may taste strange to you if you’re only used to white bread, but we are always happy to eat them as they remind us of german sourdough bread.
Fruit, veg and staple foods are usually available on the markets and in small shops in the streets. Few supermarkets sell selected imported foods (like candy, cheese, drinks or canned foods), but it’s rather expensive and options are still very limited. We prefer to rely on local goods.
Small restaurants serve local dishes. While not everything from the menu is always available, you’ll still be able to even get ethiopian versions of pizza, pasta or burgers in many places. In Addis Ababa you’ll also find (expensive) international restaurants.
Anyhow, here’s our selection of what to eat and drink in Ethiopia:
These giant pancakes are made from sour Tef batter and served to any meal any time of day as they serve as a staple food, plate and cutlery all in one. Try them with sauces, or just butter and berbere, and we recommend: The fresher, the better! Black injeras are made from brown tef, taste a little stronger and contain more iron.
In Ethiopia, coffee -buna- is everyday passion. It’s all around and best to try in tiny coffee places anywhere in town- nothing but a small hut or house with a few stools and shaky tables. A coffee ceremony takes its time: First, the coffee beans are being roasted, and the dark beans are passed around so everyone can enjoy the scent. Then, the beans are ground and then cooked in a special coffee jug, the Jebena, on the fire. The same coffee powder is used for three rounds of coffee, the first one being the strongest. Small cups of coffee are filled brimfull. Taking one or two spoons of sugar and some rue herbs in it is common, but milk is rather rare (and milk powder is often used instead of fresh milk). The coffee is sometimes served with fendisha, popcorn, and incence is usually placed on the coffee table.
On fasting days (every Wednesday and Friday, but also during several weeks before big holidays), orthodox christians in Ethiopia eat (almost) vegan. Butcher’s shops will be closed (except for the muslim places that sell halal meat and are marked with a moon instead of a cross). Even milk and eggs will be hard to find. Restaurants do not serve meat, but the Bayenetu, meaning “some of every kind” is delicious! It’s basically an Injera topped with different kinds of veggie sauces and curries (made from lentils, chickpeas, beans, carrot, potatoes, pepper, cabbage, spinach and beetroot). In Ethiopia, you eat with your hands, ripping of parts of the injera with your right hand and using it to grab some sauce with it.
Made from honey, tea and water, this beverage is left to ferment for a couple of days. It may not sound too delicious, but it’s a sweet drink! There is bottled tej, but the homemade versions are more popular. Tej bars serve this beverage in traditional flasks.
Pasta and Pizza
Ethiopians make reasonable and tasty pasta and pizza! Rather spicy, these dishes are available with or without meat, and with or without cheese (fasting pizza), and either served with bread or injera, just in case you didn’t get enough carbs already. (We know the Lonely Planet calls ethiopian pasta “sloppy” and even “disgusting”, and as much as we appreciate and respect their travel guides, this information is just not true in our eyes.)
This anise spirit is strong and tasty and often served on holidays – even for breakfast. Cheers!
Especially on special occasions, a chicken is slaughtered for doro wot. The sauce contains onions, berbere, oil, and butter, and the hicken parts are cooked in it. This spicy and delicious dish is, of course, served with injera.
Another vegetarian, and on fasting days vegan dish is Shirro Tegabino, a thick sauce made from pulse meal, onions, tomatoes, oil, spices and sometimes butter. It tastes a bit like a spicy, hot version of hummus and is served in a small pot, still cooking. It’s eaten with injera.
Tibs Firfir is chopped beef and raw onions in a spicy sauce, usually served on a stove so it continues cooking when served along with injera. If you eat meat, you should try this dish.
To be honest, we haven’t quite figured out what T’älla actually is. We sense it must be some kind of alcoholic drink, that is also often homemade, using water and hops. Although this one’s not our favourite, it for sure is a cultural experience of Ethiopia!