Ethiopian Foods 101: The Ultimate Culinary Guide to Ethiopia’s Rich and Diverse Cuisine
This Ethiopian food guide is drawn from an extensive research into the Ethiopian food culture and offers a vivid picture into the diverse and flavorful dishes, stews, and spices of the Ethiopian cuisine, how food is served and shared with loved ones as per the Ethiopian traditional customs, as well as tips on what to eat and drink when you decide to visit an Ethiopian Restaurant near you.
Ethiopian Food is one of the world’s most distinctive cuisine, befitting its remarkable history and deep-rooted cultural heritage. And while it is enjoying a lot of attention around the world these days, it has been one of the world’s best-kept secrets for so long.
One of the most distinctive features of the Ethiopian food culture is that each meal is customarily a social affair whether it’s with family, friends, lovers or work colleagues. That’s why most meals are served in communal platters which are large circular metal trays or, in more traditional settings, a ‘Messob’, a traditional, bright, colorful, and beautifully designed wicker-made table/serving platter where a group of people can sit around and dine together.
In such settings, it is customary to see Ethiopians show their affections to one-another by scooping-up a bite and feed it to a loved one or a close friend. Another distinctive feature of the Ethiopian food culture is that Ethiopians eat their meals using their hands. This is known as ‘Gursha’, an act so aptly featured in “The Food Wife” episode of The Simpsons. So, if you decide to eat the Ethiopian style, get ready to get messy!
The most common staple foods in Ethiopia are Teff, Enset and Maize. Teff, a grain widely cultivated and used in Ethiopia, is a super-grain that is high in protein and calcium, it is gluten-free, and it is used to make the iconic ‘Injera’, the spongy, slightly sour flatbread which serves as a core component of most Ethiopian dishes. In addition to Injera, the other core component of the Ethiopian dish is a thick stew known as “Wot”, which is served on top of the Injera. Wot comes in various forms as it can be made out of beef, lamb, vegetables and various types of legumes, such as lentils. The two are almost always served together.
Ethiopia is a very religious country where most of the population are either Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, Ethiopian Jews and Ethiopian Muslims. One thing these religions have in common is that they all avoid eating pork. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians also have other fasting periods where they abstain from eating any kind of animal products (including dairy products and eggs) on Wednesdays, Fridays, and the entire Lenten season. Because of this, there are several dishes in the Ethiopian cuisine that are very suitable for vegetarians and vegans, as well as everyone that is looking for tasty, unique, and most importantly, health dishes.
Another staple common in Ethiopia, especially in the southern parts of Ethiopia is a false banana plant known as Enset. This versatile plant is pulverized and fermented to make various foods, including a bread-like food called Kocho. The root of this plant may be powdered and prepared as a hot drink called Bulla, which is often given to those who are tired or ill.
In addition to the countless varieties of dishes Ethiopia has yet to offer, Ethiopia is also home to some the world’s most renown coffee types that widely praised as some of the best in the world. As the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia also has a deep coffee culture, where in most parts of the country, every meal is followed with coffee.
Ethiopian Foods: Traditional Ingredients, Spices & Seasonings
As an ancient civilization built on trade with other civilizations of the time from Eastern, Southern and Northern Africa, as well as Middle and South-East Asia, Ethiopian food has developed a rich array of dishes and cooking techniques using several ingredients.
As such, Ethiopian food is full of delightful flavors that result from the mixture of numerous different spices and herbs, well-crafted over many generations to be not too spicy but very well-seasoned.
Here are some of the most important ingredients, spices, and seasonings that play a central role in the making of an amazing Ethiopian dish.
Berbere, which is a combination of chili pepper and several other spices, herbs, and ingredients including fenugreek, ginger, garlic, cardamom, and cinnamon, forms the backbone of flavor for many Ethiopian dishes.
Mitmita, smaller and hotter than Berbere, is an orange-red colored powdered seasoning mix that is composed of chili peppers, cardamom seed, cloves and salt, as well as spices such as cinnamon, cumin and ginger. It is often used as a condiment to add some an extra kick to meat dishes such as tibs and Tere Siga, but can also be added in the cooking process, pretty much for the same reason.
Another essential ingredient in Ethiopian cuisine is Niter Kibbeh, a clarified butter similar to Indian ghee. Niter Kibbeh is made by infusing butter together with such onions, garlic, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, cinnamon and nutmeg. Because Niter Kibbeh contains butter, it is not added in dishes when it is fasting time. Other than that, it adds so much richness and flavor that it is widely used on several Ethiopian dishes, especially wots and meat dishes.
Awaze is a dark-red spice sauce made by blending berbere with water or oil, and sometimes a little bit of Ethiopian wine or whiskey. It goes surprisingly well with most meat dishes.
Da’ta is a thick pulverized chili topping that comes in red as well as green varieties. It tastes like a blend of Ethiopian low-heat green chilis and green herbs, and is considered one of the best seasonings and spices that make Ethiopian food so incredibly flavorful. It can also be used to spice up western food such as pasta.
Korarima, Ethiopian cardamom or false cardamom, is a spice obtained from the dried plant’s seeds that is extensively used in Ethiopian dishes. It is an important ingredient in Berbere, Mitmita, Awaze, and other spice mixtures, and is even used to flavor coffee in Ethiopia.
Korarima seeds are also used in Ethiopian herbal medicine as herbal tonics used to help restore, tone and invigorate systems in the body or to promote general health and well-being; as carminatives intended to either prevent formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract or facilitate the expulsion of said gas, thereby combatting flatulence; and as laxatives used to loosen stools and increase bowel movements as well as to treat and prevent constipation.
Ethiopian Foods: Categories & Popular Dishes
There are plenty of wonderful dishes and variations of each dish to eat in Ethiopia, and here below, you will find a list popular dishes widely available in almost all Ethiopian Restaurants near you, whether you are inside or outside of Ethiopia.
ETHIOPIAN MIXED PLATTER DISHES
If you are not a vegetarian, the best place to begin with Ethiopian food is to order a mixed platter – meat, vegetarian, or both – so that you can sample a variety of stews (Wots) and dishes at one sitting. Although the mounds delivered to your table may individually appear small, collectively the portions are often staggeringly large. We recommend sharing a plate with others so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Although some dishes may appear regularly in mixed platters, the ones that comprise yours will likely be based on whatever happens to be cooked fresh that day. Always a tasty surprise!
One of the most popular dishes in Ethiopia, especially among vegetarians, the word ‘Beyainetu’ roughly translates to “a bit of everything”. And true to its name, the dish comes with a layer of injera on a large serving platter with several tasty and colorful vegetarian dishes on top, including several types of lentil and split pea stews (e.g., Shiro Wot, Misir Wot, Alecha Kik or Mesir Kik) along with Kale (Gomen), Cabbage (Tilkil Gomon), etc.
The dish is also very popular in Ethiopia, where for religious reasons, most people abstain from eating any kind of animal products including meat, dairy products such as milk and eggs on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as other fasting periods prescribed by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
If it’s your first time trying Ethiopian food, this is one of the first dishes you should try.
Maheberawi is the meat dish equivalent to Beyainetu as it is mixed platter of several meat-based stews like key wat (beef stew), tibs (lamb, beef or goat cubes cooked with Nitter Kibeh and herbs like rosemary), and Kitfo. If you’re a meat lover, this is definitely a dish you should try, especially if you’re ordering in a party of two or more people.
MOST POPULAR ETHIOPIAN FOODS FOR VEGANS & VEGETARIANS
Ethiopian food can be very vegetarian and vegan friendly since it features a selection of standard vegetarian dishes that you’ll find available at almost every Ethiopian restaurant. Vegetarians and vegans traveling to Ethiopia should consider visiting just prior to Orthodox Easter or Orthodox Christmas as you will be virtually guaranteed to find vegetarian food everywhere during these times.
This is because most Ethiopians that follow the Ethiopian Orthodox religion will be fasting by forgoing forgo meat and dairy products for upwards of 50 days.
Fasting dishes served during these periods are incredibly delicious, and may not always be available in restaurants during the non-fasting periods.
Shiro Wot, or just Shiro, is arguably the one of the most commonly consumed Wot dishes in Ethiopia. It is especially popular during the fasting periods among Ethiopian Orthodox Christians as well as vegetarians & vegans who abstain from eating meat and dairy products. However, there are varieties of Shiro that are made out of butter and also have meat added to them, so remember to let your waiter know your preferences beforehand.
Shiro is made from chickpea and broad bean flour, subtly spiced with garlic, onion, chili, niter kibbeh, and sometimes meat. Shiro can slightly vary from one restaurant to another depending on the types and proportions of ingredients they used. In more traditional restaurants, Shiro is served in a miniature clay pot hot, bubbling and spluttering.
Shiro is also served as one of the central dishes included in Beyainetu.
Misir Kik Wot
Another staple for the vegetarian repertoire of Ethiopian dishes is Misir Kik Wot, or red lentil stew. A rich and spicy red lentil stew, Misir Kik Wot was among our favorite staples on a fasting plate. Made with sautéed onions, Berbere, cardamom and other spices, Misir Kik Wot is the ultimate vegetarian comfort food. The lentils are cooked with a few spoons of berbere spice powder to give them a nice redness in color, and cooked until tender, yet they still have some texture to them.
Just like Shiro, Misir Kik can slightly vary from one restaurant to another depending on the types and proportions of ingredients.
A similarly styled stew to Misir Kik, made with split peas is Kik Alicha, or Split Pea stew. A non-spicy split pea stew made with turmeric, Kik Alicha helps balance out all the other flavors and spice on an Ethiopian plate. Although Kik Alicha does not pack a lot of heat, it still features a lot of flavor.
Gomen is a simple, flavorful dish made from kale (or collard greens), onions, Niter Kibbeh and other spices sautéed and simmered together. Gomen made a regular appearance on vegetarian platters and is a welcome addition amongst all those lentils and beans.
This is a popular vegetarian dish. Tikil Gomen, which is means Cabbage in Amharic, is a very easy dish to make as well as to alter the serving size as per your please. It can also be a dish to serve accompanying other Ethiopian ‘Wot’ dishes. There are many variations on this recipe; it can be prepared with just the cabbage including carrots and potatoes, or it can include meat, and so on.
Tikil Gomen is a typical dish that is served alongside other dishes, but can also be served on its own, making it one of the most versatile, vegetarian friendly, Ethiopian food. It’s very simple to make and tastes great.
TOP ETHIOPIAN FOODS FOR MEAT LOVERS
One of the great Ethiopian dishes, Doro Wot (chicken stew), is made with the mixture of the omnipresent Berbere, a heavy load of Niter Kibbeh (Ethiopian clarified butter), chicken parts, eggs, and onions. The sauce is mostly made from onions that have been stewed down for so long, they disintegrate into a puree. The chicken comes dripping with juices and the egg is caked in flavor.
In Ethiopia, Doro Wot is the go-to meal of celebration during national and religious festivals. And because it takes a long time to make, it is often only served during these holidays and on special occasions.
Cubes of meat (beef, lamb or goat) stir-fried with onions, peppers and other vegetables in Niter Kibbeh. Quite often, twigs of rosemary or other herbs are added to it. Tibs can also be served spicy with some Berbere thrown in.
Tibs is served in a variety of manners, and can range from hot to mild or contain little to no vegetables. There are many variations of the delicacy, depending on type, size or shape of the cuts of meat used. Beef, mutton, and goat are the most common meats used in the preparation of tibs.
It is usually prepared on special occasions and holidays.
Another distinctively Ethiopian dish, Kitfo is minced lean beef meat marinated in Mitmita and Niter Kibbeh. It is usually reserved for special occasions in Ethiopia.
The quality of the meat is the key to good Kitfo and, when done right, it should pretty much dissolve on the tongue. It’s usually served with Ayib, a soft creamy cheese, and sautéed greens.
Kitfo can be served well cooked, semi-cooked (leb-leb) or raw, as per your preference.
Tere Siga (Q’wirt)
This dish is not for the faint-hearted. ‘Tere Siga’ directly translates in to ‘raw meat’ in Amharic, and that exactly what it is. It is, however, a popular delicacy in Ethiopia, and it is served in cubes or in long, fleshy strips of beef meat known as Gored Gored.
Tere Siga is a dish reserved for important celebrations, and it is a usually communal meal that is shared with two or more people. It is customarily eaten with injera used to hold on to the cubes of meat, and ‘mitmita’, a traditional powdered seasoning mix.
Unlike most Ethiopian dishes, Tere Siga comes with cutlery – a sharp knife which is used to cut the meat into bite-sized chunks. The cutting of the meat has its own technique that is practiced by all seasoned Tere Siga enthusiasts.
A popular theory on how Ethiopians developed the habit of eating Tere Siga is that during wartime encampments sometime in the 16th century, soldiers would hunt during the day and eat the meats raw at night so that they could avoid detection by not having to start fires to cook their meat.
It goes with-out saying that you should always be careful when eating raw (uncooked) meat as it could cause illness, most notably, tape worms and salmonella.
Although not very common in most Ethiopian households, Minchet is one of the best meat dishes available in most Ethiopian Restaurants. It is often placed at the center of a Maheberawi, but can often be ordered as a stand-alone dish. This ground meat stew is made from simmered red onions blended with ground beef and berbere. It’s often served topped with a boiled egg or two.
Quanta Firfir is variation of Firfir with Quanta, which is Ethiopian beef jerky, added to it.
Key Wot is a fantastic Ethiopian beef stew. The meat is usually cut into tiny pieces, then stewed with a generous amount of Berbere, some extra cumin, fenugreek, onions, garlic, and a bit of tomato puree to make the sauce.
It is very similar to Minchet, but made with meat chunks instead of minced meat. Also served with a boiled egg on top, in the middle of a mixed plate. The meat and sauce combination of Key Wot makes for the perfect dish to mop up all the flavorful sauces and juices.
COMMON ETHIOPIAN SIDE-DISHES
Ayibe is a cottage cheese, a fresh cheese curd product that is not aged, and is made by draining the cheese, as opposed to pressing it – retaining some of the whey (liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained), keeping the curds loose. It is often served as a side dish to soften the effect of very spicy food. It has little to no distinct taste of its own. However, when served separately, Ayibe is often mixed with a variety of mild or hot spices typical in Ethiopian cuisine.
Gomen Kitfo is another common dish in parts of Southern Ethiopia, where kale (or collard greens) are boiled, dried and then finely chopped and served with butter, chili and spices. It is a dish specially prepared for the occasion of Meskel, a very popular holiday marking the discovery of the True Cross. It is served along with Ayibe or sometimes even Kitfo.
Gomen Besiga is beef or lamb simmered in copious amounts of Niter Kibbeh with collard greens and other vegetables like carrots, cabbage and onions.
POPULAR ETHIOPIAN FOODS FOR BREAKFAST
Firfir or Fitfit is a common breakfast dish. It is made from shredded injera or Kita stir-fried with spices or Wot. Another popular breakfast food is Fatira. The delicacy consists of a large fried pancake made with flour, often with a layer of egg. It is eaten with honey. Chechebsa (or Kita Firfir) resembles a pancake covered with berbere and Niter Kibbeh, or other spices, and may be eaten with a spoon. Genfo is a kind of porridge, which is another common breakfast dish. It is usually served in a large bowl with a dug-out made in the middle of the Genfo and filled with spiced niter kibbeh. A variation of Fuul, a fava bean stew with condiments, served with baked rolls instead of injera, is also common for breakfast.
Also known as Kita Firfir, Chechebsa is one the most common and popular breakfast dishes in Ethiopia. It is made out of sliced shreds of Kita, which is similar to India’s pita bread, and marinated with berbere. In more traditional households, it is commonly served with a side of honey and a bowl of plain yogurt.
Kinche is a very common Ethiopian breakfast, and it’s the equivalent of oatmeal. It is incredibly simple, inexpensive, and nutritious. It is made from cracked wheat, Ethiopian oats, barley or a mixture of those. It can be boiled in either milk or water. The flavor of the Kinche comes from the Niter Kibbeh, which is Ethiopian clarified butter.
Firfir, also known as Fitfit, is a popular dish made from sliced shreds of injera typically served for breakfast, but commonly eaten at lunch as well as dinner. Though Firfir can be made in several ways using several different ingredients, at its core are the omnipresent mixtures of Berbere, onions, oil or butter (Niter Kibbeh), and shreds of Injera cooked together. Sometimes, hard boiled eggs are placed on top of this dish to enhance the overall flavor of the dish.
While basically just scrambled eggs, which might not sound that exciting, Ethiopia’s Enkulal Firfir is not to be missed at breakfasts. Cooked with Niter Kibbeh it is further enhanced with a combination of green and red peppers, chilli, tomatoes and onions, all of which is scooped up with fresh tasty bread rolls, often still warm from the bakery.
A notable feature of Enkulal Firfir is how fantastically yellow it is, which translates into a far superior taste compared to the results of pallid egg yolks in the west. The omelet version is known as Enkulal Tibs. Be warned: your appreciation of scrambled eggs back home will never be quite the same after savoring Enkulal Firfir.
Comprising torn-up bits of unleavened bread mixed with clarified butter and berbere, and often accompanied by yoghurt, Dabo Firfir is a good example of Ethiopian cooking’s ability to take something simple and do much more with it.
Like Shiro, it might not look much but Dabo Firfir is surprisingly tasty. And as another incentive, in this rare instance Ethiopians are willing to resort to a spoon or fork.
Dulet is a dish made from the minced tripe (an animal’s stomach lining), along with liver and lean beef fried in butter, onions, chilli, cardamom and pepper. As a breakfast dish, Dulet is quite popular in Ethiopia for its great taste and being very filling before a long and hard day of work.
A breakfast dish popular around the Horn of Africa, Fatira usually comprises a thin pastry top and bottom with scrambled eggs and honey wedged in the middle. Typically served as a large portion, this perfect combination of savory and sweet can happily feed two.
Fatira also comes in a street food version comprising small square pieces cooked in the open on a giant frying pan in the likes of Ethiopia’s beguiling eastern city of Harar.
Accompanied by freshly brewed Ethiopian coffee, there aren’t many better ways to start a day of exploring Ethiopia.
Popular across East Africa and the Middle East, Ethiopian Fuul is a mix of stewed and spiced fava beans served with vegetable oil, cumin and optionally with chopped parsley, onion, garlic, and lemon juice, enjoyed by many Ethiopians for breakfast.
Fuul serves as a healthy fast food that is often cooked and dispensed out of vast pots, with most customers well fed in under ten minutes before they head off into the teeming city for their day’s work.
The Ethiopian Buticha or chick pea porridge has a texture similar to couscous and is a must try for those health-conscious folks.
Due to Buticha’s great taste and simple preparation method, I would definitely recommend this dish for busy individuals, as well.
Find a clearly explained recipe for Buticha here.
ETHIOPIAN COMFORT FOODS
Genfo is a simple Ethiopian porridge that is commonly consumed for breakfast, made by adding dry-roasted barley flour to boiling water and stirring the concoction with a wooden utensil until it develops a smooth, yet extremely thick consistency.
The porridge is then transferred to a bowl, and a hole is created in the center, which is then filled with clarified spiced butter and berbere spices. Genfo is traditionally consumed as it is, although it can be accompanied by a scoop of yogurt.
Kikil is a mild stew with potatoes and lamb that is slowly cooked to get all the flavors from the bones. It is a great meal to use as a substitute for chicken soup offered to those feeling under the weather. Make sure the meat is nice and tender before it is served, that qualifies it as a perfect Kikil.
A typical Ethiopian snack, is Dabo Kolo (small pieces of baked bread that are similar to pretzels) or Kolo (roasted barley sometimes mixed with other local grains). Kolo made from roasted and spiced barley, safflower kernels, chickpeas and/or peanuts are often sold by kiosks and street vendors, wrapped in a paper cone. Snacking on popcorn is also common, especially during Buna-time.
Kolo is simply roasted barley, and it is Ethiopia’s go-to snack for everybody including children and adults. It is also a favorite beer snack at the end of a busy day, and it’s often served mixed with peanuts and other seeds or nuts.
Dabo is Amharic for bread, and it comes in several varieties, some of which are commonly consumed in everyday life, while others are specially prepared for special occasions. Dabo is typically baked on a Mitad, a traditional Ethiopian large baking pan which is also used to make Injera.
Here are some of the most popular breads in Ethiopia.
Difo Dabo is a variation of the basic Dabo that differs from regular the regular Dabo because, when its being baked, the dough is wrapped in a large green leaf of the Enset (false banana) tree, known in Ethiopia as Koba Kitel.
Kocho is a type of bread that is made from the trunk of the Enset tree. In some of the southern parts of Ethiopia, the trunk of the Enset tree is ground into a dough which is buried in the ground and fermented to make Kocho.
Ambasha is a very popular Dabo, which one may be able to find in Ethiopian restaurants, even those found outside of Ethiopia. Ambasha is flatter or less-thicker than Difo Dabo, but its most distinctive feature is that, just before it’s baked, a knife or a fork is used to carve symmetrical markings on top of the dough.
Hibist is another popular Dabo, which is a traditional Dabo that comes from the Tigray region in the northern part of Ethiopia. The special feature of this Dabo is that it is made by steaming the dough that makes the bread, not baking. As such, the bread is very light in color, almost yellow.
Dabo kolo as its name may imply is not actually bread, but it is made from the same dough that makes Dabo. It’s made by preparing the dough just as you would for a bread, then roll it into long strands that are then cut into small pieces the size of a fingernail, thus the name Dabo Kolo. Then they can be fried in oil or baked over a Mitad. To make them spicy, you can douse the dough with berbere before its cut into small pieces. You can also cut the dough into larger, more thicker pieces. This will give you a variety of Dabo Kolo known as kaka or“Somali biscuit”.
Kita is a form of a thin flat bread similar to the Indian pita bread. It’s made by mixing flour and water and baked over a hot surface and let it cook on both sides until it’s cooked through. It is a very common breakfast item and may also be consumed as a snack in Ethiopia. If you wish, you can also break it up into smaller pieces to make into Chechebsa.
You can find the recipe to make Chechebsa here.
Traditional Alcoholic Beverages
There are several traditional alcoholic drinks that are customarily homemade by using natural ingredients. Here is a list of the most popular and wildly consumed traditional alcoholic beverages in Ethiopia.
Tej, is a potent honey wine or mead that is brewed and widely consumed in much of Ethiopia. It is prepared from honey and a green herb called Gesho, a very important additive in almost all of the alcoholic drinks of Ethiopia. Tej comes in varying degrees of sweetness that deceptively masks the high alcohol content of the drink. It is typically served in a rounded vase-like or beaker-like glass container called a Berele, but if you are new to the drink one Berele maybe too much.
Just like any other wine, Tej can be stored for a long time; and longer it is stored, the higher the alcohol content, and the stronger the taste.
Tella is another popular alcoholic drink in Ethiopia. It is a traditional home-brewed beer that is brewed from various grains, usually Teff barley, maize and sorghum blended Gesho. A traditional Ethiopian beer made from Teff, barley, maize or other grains blended with a green herb called Gesho. Tella is usually brewed at home. You’ll often find it in grimy, nondescript plastic bottles lurking in the doorways of local homes. Alcohol concentrations vary widely.
Areki, also known as Katikala, is probably the strongest alcoholic beverage of Ethiopia. It’s made from Gesho leaves and features an alcohol level of around 45%. Araki is essentially the Ethiopian version of moonshine.
Beer is also an important part of Ethiopian social life especially in urban areas. Some popular brands of beer in Ethiopian are St George, Harar, Meta, Habesha, Bedele, Castel, Walia, Dankira and Dashen.
Although Ethiopia is not well known for wine, and apart from Tej, the traditional honey wine, there has recently been a surge in the consumption of wine in Ethiopia, especially in the major cities such as the capital, Addis Ababa. Some of the better-known brands of wine in Ethiopia are Awash, Gebeta, Axumit, and Castel.
Traditional Non-Alcoholic Beverages
Ethiopia is also home to various traditional non-alcoholic drinks that are made from natural and healthy ingredients. Here are a few of the well-known non-alcoholic drinks.
Kenetto, also known as Keribo, is a non-alcoholic traditional drink that is typically used as substitute for Tella by those who don’t drink alcohol.
Borde is a cereal-based traditional fermented beverage famous in the southern parts of Ethiopia.
Non-Alcoholic Brews / Hot Drinks
Buna is Amharic for coffee, and if you are a coffee lover, you should probably know that coffee originated from Ethiopia. Buna is a revered drink in Ethiopia that is an integral part of social life in the country. It is also very important to the Ethiopian economy as it is a major source of foreign exchange and a source of income to around 15% of the population.
The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony
The whole process of the preparation and serving of Buna in Ethiopia is also a unique and elaborate social affair. A typical traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony will take up to half an hour and starts with roasting of raw green coffee beans right in front of the guests by a host who is always a woman.
In most homes, a dedicated coffee area is kept surrounded by fresh-picked grass and specialized traditional coffee furniture specifically for this occasion.
When the beans are roasted, the host will bring the pan around to all the guests so that they can enjoy the aroma. Around this time, the host will light some frankincense to balance the strong coffee aroma and clear the air. This gives out an intoxicating scent which also serves as an invitation to people to gather, prepare to drink some amazing coffee and take part in the social chatter and idle conversations.
While the guests are waiting, Fendisha, or popcorn in Amharic, is usually served as a snack. Other snacks such as Kolo, which is toasted barley are also commonly served.
The roasted beans are then ground using a traditional tool known as Mukecha.
Clean water that will be used to make the coffee is boiled using a traditional coffee pot known as jebena. The boiled water and freshly ground coffee beans are then mixed together in the jebena. When the coffee is ready, the host will pour it gracefully into small, handle-less cups known as Sini.
Buna is usually served with sugar, but in many parts of Ethiopia, it is common to see it being served with salt, honey, or even niter kibbeh instead of sugar.
Traditionally, a full coffee ceremony involves three rounds of coffee that proceed from strong (Abol) to medium (Tona) to weak (Baraka), with the final round considered as bestowing a blessing on the coffee drinker.
Shai is Amharic for tea, and is the second most preferred hot drink in Ethiopia next to Buna. It is also quite popular among the Muslim communities in the lowlands of Ethiopia.
Atmit is a mostly used as comfort drink for mothers with newly born babies and, sometimes people with the flu. However, some people who enjoy the taste and smooth texture of the drink also enjoy it ones in a while. Atmit is made out of barley and oat-flour mixed with water, sugar and Niter Kibbeh (Ethiopian clarified butter), cooked until it reaches a slightly thick consistency.
With over 80 unique ethnicities in Ethiopia, it is no wonder that Ethiopia is home to a rich and diverse food culture with several dishes well suited for almost everyone, whether you are a vegetarian/vegan or a hard-core meat lover.
The surge in the popularity of Ethiopian food clearly demonstrates that almost everyone that tries Ethiopian foods experiences a taste sensation like no other, and more often than not, they will come back for again and again.
If you wish to learn more about Ethiopian food, consider exploring our website and find more valuable contents, guides, recipes, videos, etc. You can also find a comprehensive and growing listing of Ethiopian Restaurants from around the world, complete with their contact details, locations, as well as their menus.
We suggest you find Ethiopian restaurants near you, go with friends and family, and try some of their dishes. Who knows, maybe it will inspire you to cook Ethiopian yourself, or better yet, you might end-up planning a trip to Ethiopia, the Land of Origins, for an experience you will never forget!
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