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Ethiopian Traditional Foods and their bizarre Recipes

Updated on February 8, 2017

How to make Injera (May not show the exact traditional way)

Bizarre Ethiopian Traditional Foods

Anyone looking for information on “Ethiopian Traditional Foods” on the Internet may face some problem in identifying which is the real “Ethiopian” tradition. The term is a bit ambiguous or kind of broad. Ethiopia as a country is composed of lots of different ethnic groups, languages, religions and cultures.

Though the official language of the state is Amharic, it is not totally used in some parts of the country, signifying every state running autonomous. So if you label certain cultural foods as “Ethiopian Traditional Foods” some people groups in the country may not recognize it at all, but they are as Ethiopian as citizens in the capital are.

So let us first agree upon the very fact that there are lots of traditions and it would take a whole book to list each and every detail about them. In this article I have focused on the commonly agreed upon food types that are very well known to be “Ethiopian traditional foods” and found in the capital and other big and small towns’ hotels.

You may someday travel to Ethiopia and end up in a hotel where traditional foods are served or you may want to enjoy them in an Ethiopian restaurant near your area. What would you be asking for? What would your expectation be? Is there anything bizarre about them at all?

I will list some of the foods commonly labelled as "Ethiopian" and their presentations. You can go into any Hotel that serves Ethiopian dishes and ask for these. Let us start with the first well known staple food specific to Ethiopia.

Injera, one of the famous Traditional Ethiopian foods

Injera is a flat bread made from Teff flour. The process of making injera is so lengthy that i preferred to post a YouTube video that explains how to make it the Ethiopian way. You may not find this unique bread else where, it is so Ethiopian.

It is used as base for different kinds of sauces and stews, meaning you eat them with Injera. Injera is also well known to be a good substitute of gluten free food. So you may ask "How do i eat Injera?" Uhh.. one of the unexpected or bizarre things about most Ethiopian foods, you eat them by hand.

Wash your hand, tear a small size of Injera, deep it in one of the stews available and eat. There is no nutrition information panel or any kind of label on Injera, as far as i know, but it sure is healthy as it only has Teff flour.

The famous Injera


How to make Doro Wot

Ethiopian Traditional Foods (Doro Wot)

Doro Wot, Ethiopian traditional Foods No.1

I grew up eating Doro wot (Chicken Stew) every major holiday. I have seen it being cooked at home for hundreds of times. All the girls at home will have a turn in cooking it as Mum would be instructing them, they are going to be married in the future and have to know how to cook Doro Wot.

Mum cooks it as she was instructed by her mum, so on down the line. No recipe. This means that you don’t expect to get the same taste and flavor everywhere. But there are certain recipe books that detail the cooking process. The traditional cooking process is like;

  • Chop huge pile of onion and cook till moisture evaporates from the onion (an hour).

  • Add cooking oil and cook for additional minutes till onion is brown

  • Add huge pile of pepper and cook for an hour or more.

  • Kill the chicken, dissect in parts and wash thoroughly.

  • Add the chicken parts and cook for longer.

  • Add spices and keep on cooking

  • Add boiled egg and butter and leave it in low heat for hours.

I have read somewhere that we need 5-7 kilos of onion to make Doro wot. I suppose it is true, the serving size is definitely large. That may feed the whole family.


White men eating raw meat..locals giggling in the background

Kitfo, raw meat delicacy Ethiopian Traditional foods

Kitfo is prepared from beef mince mixed with huge amount of butter and chili. You can eat it with Injera or its own traditional staple bread called Kocho. The mince is usually uncooked, but you could ask for cooked serve and it will be arranged.

Eating uncooked meat may expose us to a number of illnesses if the cattle doesn't have a health check before being slaughtered. Eating raw meat is one of the most loved dishes in the country. It is common to slaughter a goat or sheep for major public holidays like Christmas and Easter and the first thing you do after parting the body parts is eat the liver, deep it with chili peper. Then other raw and cooked preparations will follow.

Kurt (Raw meat)

This food is all raw beef served with some chilli sauces. Eating raw meat is one of the most loved eat out in the country. You go to a well known butchery or restaurant and ask for Kurt (meaning a chop of meat) and express your choice of meat type.

Then the uncooked meat will come with a knife and some well known local chilli and other sauces. You get your knife, chop the meat in small pieces, deep in a sauce and eat. Have you ever expected that you will be eating raw meat? If not then try one of the most loved Ethiopian traditional foods, Kurt.

Ethiopian Traditional Foods are followed by traditional Coffee ceremony

Ethiopia is considered to be the birthplace of coffee. Traditionally almost all city dwellers drink home brew coffee at least three times a day. This is just a norm in most households. So if you are a guest in someone's house, being invited for lunch, you will definitely see an Ethiopian coffee ceremony following the meal.

All the materials for this special ceremony are local and traditional. Ethiopian coffee ceremony is also commonly served in many hotels and restaurants.

Eating Ethiopian Traditional Foods by hand is bizarre for many

As most traditional foods and how to eat them will be a little bit different than the most modern and scientifically acceptable ways of the developed world, Ethiopia has a unique eating culture that may disgust some.

Traditionally eating food is the most respected activity people can have. Meaning they give it such a big regard that it is a way of showing your love and respect and attachment to the other person too. So traditionally people eat food from one big tray like utensil(Mesob). Injera is spread on Mesob and different sauces (Wot) will be scooped.

Then people surrounding the food will start eating, tearing Injera from their corresponding side. But don't be surprised when those people start feeding each other, meaning you give a handful of the food you get in your hand to the person next to you, and the other will do the same. Why? You may ask.

Well it is tradition and people believed that this act will strengthen the bond between the people eating together. Just look at the video below and be a bit surprised.

Ethiopia is not the only country which has a hand-eating culture, and most of all most people know the importance of hygiene. It is only a concern when people ignore the need of personal hygiene and eat in a very dirty hand.


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