Monday, November 13, 2017

Dining in Ethiopia

For those not familiar with it, traditional Ethiopian food can seem a bit intimidating on first blush, but adventurous diners will be rewarded with exotic and deliciously spiced dishes. The cuisine is friendly to omnivores and vegetarians alike. There are a few rules of etiquette when dining in Ethiopia that most Westerners might be unaware of, so Travel Ethiopia has kindly shared some mealtime rules with us.

Mealtime Etiquette

  1. Most traditional Ethiopian food is eaten with the hands. This is done by tearing off a piece of injera, a traditional Ethiopian flatbread made from the teff grain, using it to grab some food, and putting it directly in your mouth.
  2. Traditional meals are eaten from a communal plate, but you should not reach all the way across to the other side to grab food - rather, eat what is close to you.
  3. It is polite to eat with your right hand - the left is considered unclean and therefore you should avoid using it if you can.
  4. There will always be a way to wash your hands before and after the meal. Sometimes a waiter will bring a basin and pitcher to the table.
  5. When greeting others at a restaurant, often they will have already washed their hands or may even already be eating. In place of a handshake, they will offer you their wrist; lightly grasp their wrist but do not shake it. If your hands aren’t suitable for a handshake either, you can touch your wrist to theirs. 
  6. The gursha is a gesture when a person will carefully place a morsel of food directly into your mouth. It is a gesture of respect and it is courteous to accept it.
  7. If you are invited into someone’s home, take your shoes off if they remove theirs.  Greet each person present, starting with oldest first. Always allow any elders to begin eating before you do. If you are the oldest present, Ethiopians will patiently wait until you begin to eat.
  8. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fast two days a week (Wednesday and Friday), and for the two months before Easter. On these days, observant Christians do not eat or drink until 3 pm and also completely refrain from eating animal products (except for fish). 
If you're keen to try traditional Ethiopian food, Travel Ethiopia has shared a recipe for doro wat, one of the country's best known dishes, and one that is often served on holidays. The recipe makes a very tasty version with a deep, rich flavor and tender chicken pieces. Making homemade berberé is not difficult and is essential to give the dish the proper flavor. If this seems to intimidating, try to find a local Ethiopian restaurant, or better yet, plan a visit to the country!


Niter Kibbeh (spiced butter)

1 pound unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
6 black cardamom pods, crushed lightly with a knife blade
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 teaspoons black cardamom seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon whole allspice
4 cloves

Berbere (Spice Mix)

1/3 cup New Mexico Chile powder
1/4 cup paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (more or less, according to taste)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 small stick cinnamon

Chicken Stew

8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large yellow onions, finely diced (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
Injera, for serving 


Special equipment: spice grinder

For the niter kibbeh (spiced butter): Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally. Stir in the ginger, allspice, fenugreek, oregano, turmeric, cardamom, garlic and onions and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the butter is clear and the milk solids remain on the bottom of the pan, about 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to low if the butter is boiling too quickly--if it burns it will taste bitter.

For the berbere (spice mix): Whisk together the chile powder, paprika, cayenne, ginger, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and nutmeg. Set aside.

Put the cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, allspice, cloves and cinnamon in a small skillet and toast over medium-low heat, shaking the pan regularly, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Cool slightly.
Grind the toasted spices in a spice grinder to a fine powder. Add to the chile powder mixture and whisk to combine. Sift the spice mixture onto a piece of parchment paper, return to the bowl and whisk again. Return the pieces left in the sifter to the spice grinder and grind again as finely as possible; whisk into the spice mixture. Set aside.

To finish the niter kibbeh: Line a strainer with dampened cheesecloth. Skim the foam from the top of the butter and discard. Ladle the butter through the strainer, leaving behind the milk solids on the bottom of the pan.

For the chicken stew: Put the chicken in a nonreactive bowl and toss with the lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare a bowl with ice water. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and salt generously, making sure there is enough water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Carefully add the eggs, bring back to a gentle boil and cook for 6 minutes. Transfer the eggs to the ice water, and shake or tap gently to crack the shells. Remove the eggs from the water and, when cool to the touch, peel. Set aside; do not refrigerate or they will not warm up in the sauce.

Put the onions in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 10 minutes, taking care not to burn them. You may need to reduce the heat as the onions dry out.
Increase the heat to medium high; add 1/3 cup of the niter kibbeh, 1/4 cup of the berbere, the garlic, ginger, tomato paste and black pepper, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken, turning to coat well with the butter mixture, and then leave the chicken skin-side down in the pan.

Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook at a gentle simmer until the chicken is very tender, about 40 minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced and the sauce is very thick, about 45 minutes, occasionally spooning the sauce over the chicken.

Remove the pan with the chicken from the heat and add the eggs, turning to coat them in the sauce. Cover the pan and let rest for 5 minutes.

To serve, place the chicken thighs and eggs on injera or serving plates, and spoon the sauce over.

Cook's Note

Starting the onions in a dry pan is traditional for this dish and adds a toasty taste. Just be careful not to let the onions burn. This recipe makes more than enough berbere and niter kibbeh to make the chicken. Refrigerate any leftovers to use in other Ethiopian recipes.

No comments:

Post a Comment