Menu: Ethiopia

One of my mom’s favorite expressions is “Did you get it straight from the horse’s mouth?” She likes to ask me this when I am at my most panicked, assumption-burdened self. While the image it conjures up isn’t exactly pretty, the saying gives me perspective when I need it most.

If there was ever any doubt about the food of Ethiopia, I’m going to put it to rest right now. I cooked, I ate and I am here to tell you that the food of Ethiopia is intense, flavorful, and fit for any dinner party. You can say you got it straight from the horse’s mouth. Better yet, you can make some of the food from this menu and find out for yourself.

Eating without utensils is quickly becoming a favorite hobby of mine. If the potential mess scares you, have no fear. Ava will be happy to give you a lesson. She’s a pro (although, technically, the left hand is never used for eating in Ethiopia. It’s called the unclean hand and I’ll leave it to your imaginations what that’s all about).

Here’s our Ethiopian menu: which of these dishes would you try?

Spicy Lamb and Sweet Red Onion Stew (Awaze Tibs) [Recipe]
When winter just won’t let go, cozy up to a big pot of Awaze Tibs. This stew is spicy and perfectly sweet – the way only two whole caramelized onions can be sweet. Fresh ginger and garlic balance out the flavors. Recipe inspired by Laura from the Silk Road Gourmet.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony [Recipe]
Ethiopians celebrate the entire process of making coffee, from roasting the green coffee beans, to inhaling the aroma, to drinking the intensely sweet mixture. Learn about the authentic ceremony and see how we replicated one without special equipment.

Stovetop Popcorn [Recipe]
Ethiopian coffee ceremonies include snacks, usually plain popcorn. For this recipe I learned how to make popcorn the old fashioned way – on the stovetop.

I also used Berberé [Recipe] in the Tibs and served the meal with Injera [Recipe] … both recipes I made a couple of weeks ago for neighboring Eritrea.

As usual, all the recipes will be posted by Monday, along with the Monday Meal Review.


  1. …she’s on a sugar high….it’s in her eyes…

    I’d try ALL the recipes..

  2. I’ve read – never get an eye exam after ingesting sweets – it won’t be accurate as your focus will be off…

    …that Shade of Blue is her Color…

  3. Sandra says

    Hi — I am loving your journey. On Ethiopia — I am a firenge (non-Ethiopian to Ethiopians) and have speant a lot of time in Ethiopia. My first husband is Ethiopian, we had 2 kids together, then later (in the 1990’s) I adopted 4 children from Ethiopia. Most are now adults. I have traveled extensively in Ethiopia and spent a lot of time with Ethiopian cooks learning how to do things their way. My lessons learned:

    Find an Ethiopian grocer or restaurant (they are in most cities) or a mail order connection (there are many) and buy injera made with mostly or 100% teff. Teff flour makes a huge huge difference — the more teff the more the injera absorbs the sauce without getting soggy. Injera is fun to make on occasion and the recipe/technique and outcome (based on the photos) is about as good as I have seen any firenge make, but it is just loads easier to buy it fresh. We eat Ethiopian food a lot and just buy injera like we buy bread. It is also very helpful to buy prepared berbere and the spiced clarified butter (lots of Ethiopian recipes call for a lot of this, but a dollup ot two into a finished wat will really make a huge difference in getting the authentic flavor)

    Second — I finally “cracked” the key to making wat when I learned how to cook the onion properly. When I watch Ethiopian cooks in Ethiopia they chop up red onion very tiny (I use a food processor and stop short of pulverizing as it helps it cook down faster) and then dry cook it in the pan — no oil. They dry cook it stirring constantly until it turns almost into a paste — imagine the consistency of a good roux. It takes a lot of onion to get the right amount of this paste. Then add the oil/lentils, sauce stuff, etc. The onion paste is actually the thickener for the wat — if you don’t do this step properly then the wat ends up too soupy/watery or you end up having to put in too much other thickeners.

    Sorry for the long post, but this country’s food captured my heaart decades ago and I made a lot of disasters before I got it right.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Sandra, thank you for taking the time to share this information with us. I really love hearing personal stories and tips. I just *wish* I had known about the onion tip when making wat. If you don’t mind, I’ll share your tip with the recipe so that readers can make the adjustment when cooking. I was so in love with the flavors, I will definitely be making it again – with your adjustments in mind. I’ll be looking forward to it – especially to see how it thickens the sauce. What an interesting technique. Thanks again!

      • Sandra says

        I would be honored if you shared. I have been waiting eagerly for you to get to Ethiopia. thanks. I am sure yo will see a huge difference in the texture of your wat — it will be like real wat versus lamb/beef stew flavored with berbere. In talking to some friends from India I think they also use the dry onion cooking technique.

  4. I’m looking forward to the coffee ceremony. I never thought of doing stovetop popcorns as something old fashioned or unusual – such a funny thing! I don’t own a microwave and I have always done them like that. Actually, as a child the noise and smell and total transformation of the little grains was deeply fascinating.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Ha! Even though I got rid of my microwave last year, I still hadn’t braved making it myself. My mom used to make it on the stovetop herself all the time – served with butter and brewer’s yeast. I’m not sure why but I got all nervous and silly about doing it myself – I half expected it to blow up or something. In the end it was easy peasy and a fun family activity 🙂

  5. Ethiopian/Eritrean is my favorite cuisine! I’ve made Ethiopian a few times, but one staple on our table is Ethiopian red lentils. They’re quick and easy to make, ever since I bought some Ethiopian spice blend, which is essentially Berbere by another name.

    Man, this is making me hungry! There are no Ethiopian restaurants around me and I haven’t had the time to make injera and a full Ethiopian feast for a while. Maybe it’s time to make time!

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