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Food in Ethiopia

This meal, consisting of injera and several kinds of Wat (stew), is typical of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine.

Ethiopian cuisine and Eritrean cuisine characteristically consist of spicy vegetable and meat dishes, usually in the form of wat
(or wot), a thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread, which is about 50 centimeters (20 inches) in diameter and made out of fermented teff flour.

Ethiopian food

Ethiopians eat with their right hands, using pieces of injera to pick up bites of entrées and side dishes. Utensils are rarely used with this dish.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church prescribes a number of fasting periods, including Wednesdays, Fridays, and the entire Lenten season, so Ethiopian cuisine contains many dishes that are vegan. This has also led Ethiopian cooks to develop a rich array of cooking oil sources: besides sesame and safflower, Ethiopian cuisine also uses nug (also spelled noog, known also as niger seed).


How a Dinner is Served in Ethiopia

A meal in Ethiopia is an experience. When you have dinner in an Ethiopian home or restaurant, you eat the tablecloth!

One or two of the guests are seated on a low comfortable divan and a mesab, a handmade wicker hourglass-shaped table with a designed domed cover is set before them. The other guests are then seated round the table on stools about eight inches high covered with monkey fur.

A tall, stunning woman with characteristically high cheekbones and soft skin, dressed in a shama, carries a long-spouted copper ewer or pitcher in her right hand, a copper basin (which looks like a spittoon) in her left hand, and a towel over her left arm. She pours warm water over the fingers of your right hand, holding the basin to catch the excess, and you wipe your hands on the towel that hangs over her arm.

The mesab is taken out of the room and returned shortly with the domed cover. She removes the dome and the table is covered with what looks like a gray cloth overlapping the edge of a huge tray. But it is not a "tablecloth" at all. It is the Injera, the sourdough pancake-like bread of Ethiopia. Food is brought to the table in enamel bowls and portioned out on the "tablecloth!" When the entire Injera is covered with an assortment of stews, etc., you tear off a piece about two or three inches square and use this to "roll" the food in-the same way you would roll a huge cigarette. Then just swoop it up and pop it into your mouth. Your host might "pop" the first little "roll" in your mouth for you. It takes a bit of doing to accomplish this feat but once you master it, you cannot help enjoy It.

Our server returns with individual long-necked bottles from which you drink Tej, an amber-colored honey wine. It is put on a little table close by. Or she may bring a weakly carbonated water or Tella, the homemade beer.

You learn that you are eating Chicken Wat and Lamb Wat-two peppery stews- Iab-cottage cheese and yogurt with special herbs giving it an acidic lemon flavor; and Kitfo-ground raw beef, which we are told is considered the dessert of the meal.

No other dessert is served. Coffee comes in on a tray in tiny Japanese cups served black with sugar.

Dinner is concluded with hand-washing again and incense is burned.

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