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Ethiopia is on our radar.
We often think Ethiopia when we drink specialty coffee since this country is one of the key producers of high-quality, single-origin coffee beans. However, our fascination with Ethiopian cuisine started years ago when we each ate Ethiopian food for the first time.
Ironically, we didn’t share our initial Ethiopian meals together. Daryl enjoyed his at an Ethiopian restaurant in Philadelphia while Mindi ate hers in Washington, DC. However, we were both highly impacted by our meals.
First and foremost, Ethiopian food appealed to us with its bright colors and spicy flavors. However, the dining experience is what impacted us most.
Though novices to the cuisine, our naivety about items on the Ethiopian food menu didn’t matter. Ethiopian meals are a family affair. We let our friends order food which everybody shared.
And the best part? We were able to use Ethiopian bread in lieu of utensils.
6 Ethiopia Food Favorites
Now that we travel the world in search of unique food, we’re keen to visit Ethiopia. Beyond experiencing one of the cradles of human history, we can’t wait to eat all the food starting with savory dishes all the way to Ethiopian desserts.
Without a doubt, we’ll visit an Ethiopian coffee plantation and delve into the history of arabica coffee. We’ll also shop at local markets in the countryside and eat Ethiopian street food in Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital.
We’ve already done our research and know that it’s important to plan ahead and arrange an e-visa. Completing an Ethiopia visa application online is easy, plus most major airlines fly to the capital city. Heck, maybe we’ll even use frequent flyer miles when we book our flights.
Once we finalize timing and logistics, these are the Ethiopian foods we want to try first:
1. Injera (Ethiopian Bread)
As bread lovers, we fully relate to a country that treats bread like a national treasure. It’s one of many reasons why we adore France.
In Ethiopia, Injera is an integral part of every meal. The spongy, fermented bread is literally the base of many dishes, acting as a conduit for meats, vegetables and sauces.
However, the best part of Injera is that it doubles as a spoon. Across Ethiopia and at Ethiopian restaurants around the world, diners pull off pieces of Injera to scoop up mouthfuls of tasty morsels.
As a bonus, Injera bread is vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. Though we don’t fit into any of these dietary categories, we fully support the Ethiopian bread’s versatility.
2. Mixed Platters
We typically want to taste multiple dishes when we travel, which means that we often share dishes between the two of us. This approach won’t be a problem in Ethiopia where mixed platters include a selection of Ethiopian dishes and are meant to be shared.
As carnivores, we’ll order various versions of Muheberawi platters since these include meats like beef, chicken, lamb and goat. We also want to try Yetsom Beyaynetu platters that feature a melange of vegetables and lentils.
Regardless of our choice between meat or veggies, we’ll thoroughly enjoy Injera bread both as a utensil and starch. As previously mentioned, we love bread.
3. Doro Wat (Chicken Stew)
This Ethiopian traditional dish features chicken, garlic, onions and hard-boiled eggs. However, the inclusion of Berbere, a special spice blend, adds the signature flavor to the country’s most famous dish.
If you’re not familiar with Berbere, the spice mixture includes chili peppers, garlic, ginger and basil plus an assortment of spices indigenous to Ethiopia. Although Ethiopian chefs often use Berbere when cooking, Doro Wat is the most famous Ethiopian dish to feature this unique tongue-tingling blend.
4. Kitfo (Raw Beef)
Kitfo is another Ethiopian dish that derives its flavor from a chili-based spice blend, in this case – Mitmita. However, unlike Doro Wat which features chicken, Kitfo’s protein is raw beef.
We’ll probably order Kitfo as part of a mixed platter first and then order it as a stand-alone dish over Injera. We’re not afraid of raw meat when it’s prepared correctly, but less adventurous diners can instead order Kitfo Leb Leb with rare beef instead of the raw alternative.
5. Ethiopian Spices
Ethiopian cuisine embraces a variety of spices and herbs to achieve its bold, bright flavors. Popular spices include Korarima (cardamom) and Abish (fenugreek) but Ethiopian spice options are extensive enough to fill a rack. Locals can buy an array of spices at local markets throughout the country.
In Ethiopia, it’s typical for chefs to mix spices with red chilis to create blends like hot Berbere and even hotter Mitmita, both mentioned above. Just like spices, red chili peppers are readily available at Ethiopian markets.
Although it’s not technically a spice, Niter Kibbeh is a popular clarified butter that’s flavored with spices. When we’re in Ethiopia, we plan to apply the Ethiopian version of ghee liberally to our food along with Berbere and Mitmita.
6. Ethiopian Coffee
As much as we want to eat the best Ethiopian food during our trip, our top priority will actually be to drink copious amounts of coffee in the landlocked country where the caffeinated beverage originated many centuries ago. The epicenter of arabica coffee, Ethiopia is the seventh largest coffee producer and exports about half of its beans.
In many ways, drinking coffee in Ethiopia will be a pilgrimage. We’ve savored Ethiopian coffee in specialty coffee shops all over the world, but drinking it at the source will be the realization of a food travel dream.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.