The first thing you need to know about Ethiopian food is that it is an extremely, what I would call, “hands-on” experience. You might not find that to be the politest way of having your meals but the range of tastes that your palette is exposed to is stunning enough to be something of a revelation. No foodie worth his salt will choose to skip this wonderful experience.
Typically, Ethiopian dining experience is a shared one where several people sitting at a low table share the same dishes. The staple of Ethiopian food is the “injera” a thick, spongy pancake with a rather sharp taste that is used to scoop up the entrees and curries you order. If you’ve never done it before, it’s pretty simple. All you have to do is tear off bits of injera, dip it into the curry or scoop up the meat and vegetables and pop this tiny morsel into your mouth.
See, no big deal!
Meat is a rare find in Ethiopia. Although modern restaurants offer savory meat preparations, intrinsically the cuisine is very friendly towards vegetarians. Like Indian food, there are plenty of casseroles and stews made with spinach, pulses, chickpeas, and vegetables. Of course, you will also find several dishes with cooked with lamb, beef, and chicken.
For more help, turn to this mini-dictionary to make sense of that Ethiopian menu you are holding in your hands.
At the end of your meal, don’t forget to order a cup of coffee instead of the usual dessert. This isn’t like any other coffee you may have had before – it’s an entire ceremony that begins with roasting the beans at your table, followed by the grinding of the beans and finally arrives your cup of coffee, the fragrance of which stands testament to its freshness.
Enjoy it while it lasts!
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