Ethiopian Traditional Foods

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With more than 80 ethnic groups in the country, each with different languages, cultures and foods, Ethiopia has one of the most diverse populations in Africa. A common staple food for a number of tribes is injera, which people around the world often think of first as a classic Ethiopian food. Many other traditional Ethiopian foods exist that employ native grains and adhere to local customs such as vegetarianism.

Injera

  • Injera is a spongy flatbread containing fermented teff. The teff grain grows mainly in Ethiopia. Other grasses in the same family include the sand lovegrass found in the United States. Teff naturally contains a small amount of yeast. To make injera, a cook leaves a batter of teff flour and water out to sit for a day or more. Sometimes the cook will use a starter to improve or speed up the process. She then pours the batter onto a heated pan and leaves it until the spongy surface is just cooked. This takes only a few seconds. Although making injera with pure teff flour is more common and traditional, sometimes a cook will use other flours. Some teff flour substitutions include rice, millet, sorghum, wheat, corn and barley or even a combination. Yeast is necessary in these cases. It's possible to dry and reconstitute injera made with teff, but the texture and longevity of other grains vary. Ethiopians eat injera with all sorts of things.

Wat

  • Wat or wot is the stew or sauce that goes with injera. These sauces range from culture to culture as well as personal taste. Some of the more common wat types are made of lentils, beef, lamb, fish and chicken. All sauces usually contain a few essential additions, such as a good amount of fresh onions; berebere, which is a red hot spice blend made with garlic, onions, peppers, ginger, cardamom and cloves, among other things; and niter kibe.

Niter Kibe

  • Niter Kibe is a special ghee made with butter and spices such as ginger, garlic, onion, cumin, basil and cardamom seeds. To make the ghee, the cook melts butter and skims off the milk solids. The cook adds onions, garlic and the rest of the spices. After simmering for a short while, the mixture is left to cool a little before being strained and stored. Niter Kibe flavors other dishes like vegetables. In some places, Ethiopians add it to coffee.

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  • Photo Credit ethiopia flag icon. (with clipping path) image by Andrey Zyk from Fotolia.com
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