Re: [CH] Ethiopian food

M. & L. Doster (
Sat, 14 Sep 2002 05:58:04 -0700

I have eaten Ethiopian food in Ethiopia besides in Ethiopian restaurants in
the US, and I think there are the typical changes of making the food less
for American tastes in the restaurants in the US.  In Ethiopia, some of the
dishes were sweat on the forehead and total-numb-mouth hot, but I don't
think I've ever had anything as hot in Ethiopian restaurants in the US.

The general rule is that if the "stew" (wat) is red then it's hot and if
it's yellow then it's not. If it's not hot, then the name frequently has
"alecha" in the name (which means yellow, I think).

From: Sarah Banick <>
>The bread someone referred to is "injera." It's usually made over a few
>from a special African flower (teff? tiff?), but Jeff Smith's Immigrant
>cookbook has a good recipe you can make quickly, using carbonated soda
>water. It's so good I use it for other things (and you can even throw some
>chiles into the batter). If anybody wants it, I'll post (I'm too lazy to go
>downstairs and get it right now unless I know someone wants it.)

Injera is usually made from teff in Ethiopia. Teff is a grain (grass) with a
very small seed. Teff is ground and the injera is made from the ground teff.
Either old dough is added or the dough is allowed to sit for 2 or 3 days
before cooking; injera in Ethiopia will have a slight sour flavor (like a
weak sourdough). Injera is really amazing stuff because it's so flexible and

"Stews" (wat) are served on the injera. The hottest wat is probably doro wat
(chicken) but Ki wat (Ki means red, I think) is also very hot. Minchet abesh
is also hot but not as hot; it's finely chopped meat cooked with the hot
peppers/spices. Pieces of the injera is ripped off and used to pick up
pieces of the wat. Traditionally, only the right hand is used.

The interesting thing about Ethiopian cuisine is the use of many herbs and
spices (besides the extensive use of hot peppers). I don't know too much
about the actual pepper used, which is called berbere. Berbere is also used
to refer to the pepper/spice blend used in cooking. I have a cookbook on
Ethiopian cooking from Ethiopia and this is the recipe for the berbere spice
30 ladles red pepper (a ladle = 10 tbsp or 3/4 cup)
5 ladles red shallot
5 ladles garlic
1 1/2 ladles ginger
1/2 ladle fenugreek
1 ladle Bishop's weed
1 ladle black cumin
23 pods cardamon
1/4 ladle kebebe sine (no English for this plant)
1/4 ladle hidar filfile
1/2 ladle cinnamon
1 ladle dry Bishop's weed
1/4 ladle black pepper
3/4 ladle salt
2 ladles water

So, doro wat is basically chicken cooked in butter, water, and a lot of the
above pepper/spice blend (and a boiled egg added later).

Besides the above, there is a wat spice blend that is (sometimes?) added
towards the end of cooking:
6 long peppers
3 tbsp. black pepper
3 tbsp. whole cloves
1 long nutmeg
1 pinch of turmeric

Rue is also used in some of the cooking, which I find interesting.

Also, there are many fast days in the Ethiopian Christianity (no meat is
eaten those days), so there are pretty good hot vegetarian dishes.

Ethiopia is a very interesting country with great people. There are many
tribes and languages. The three main languages are Semitic (related to
Hebrew and Arabic; I think some of the words are similar to the Hebrew, like
"bet" meaning house). However, these languages in Ethiopia use explosives
(unlike Hebrew and Arabic), which some of the American Indian languages also