1. Injera (sourdough flatbread)
Injera is a type of flatbread made in Ethiopia and several other East African nations. The bread is a staple food in Ethiopia, where it is served with almost every meal. True injera is made with teff flour, a gluten free flour produced from teff, a popular African grain. Injera has a distinctive sour flavor and spongy texture which makes it ideally suited to sopping up curries, stews, and other wet dishes.
2. Tibs (sautéed meat chunks)
The country’s “go-to meat dish,” as Curtis describes it, is usually made from beef cut into small chunks and sautéed in butter or oil with onions, garlic, hot pepper and rosemary. You’ll find this on most general Ethiopian menus, served with injera, naturally.
3. Shiro be Kibbe (legume stew)
Says Richman, “This is Ethiopia’s peasant dish, although it’s eaten by all classes and is the most popular dish in the country.” In Addis, Richman and Curtis took my group to a hole-in-the-wall specializing in shiro. (It was Friday, a fasting day, so this was in lieu of visiting a butcher shop with an attached restaurant.) The reddish, saucy dish is made by combining a flour of ground split peas and chickpeas with kibbe, or spiced clarified butter. “It’s an incredibly rich and delicious dish,” Richman says. “This is our favorite thing to eat in Ethiopia.”
4. Berbere (typical spice blend)
“Berbere is the name of the chili pepper and also the name of Ethiopia’s most prominent spice mix,” explains Curtis. “Everyone has a different recipe and these variations are often highly guarded family secrets, containing a minimum of 12 ingredients and a maximum of 25,” commonly including garlic, ginger, cardamom and fenugreek. “Typically, an individual or a restaurant will buy large sacks of berbere peppers once a year and dry them in the hot sun with the other dried spices,” says Richman. “The peppers and all the other spices are then brought to a local mill to be ground into a powder.”
5. Kitfo (Ethiopian beef tartare)
Tartare fans, this might be your favorite new Ethiopian dish. Kitfo is ground raw beef that’s been mixed with kibbe, the spiced clarified butter. It can be accompanied by mitmita, another popular Ethiopian spice blend. The result melts in your mouth and tastes great with the typical accompaniments of gomen (cooked greens) and a soft fresh cheese. A special flatbread called kocho usually accompanies the dish, along with injera. Says Curtis, “It is one of the dishes Ethiopians are most proud of, and it’s always served at parties, holidays, et cetera. We know of people who break the 55-day Easter fast with kitfo.”