Because of that — and hoping to avoid looking like a complete ignoramus — I did a little research on how to eat the food and what kind of foods would be served. I saw many people in the restaurant eating with their right hand, so give it a shot if you want to do as the Ethiopians do. I was a little disappointed to find that the shells of the sambusas were made with a wonton wrapper rather than being created from scratch, but the crackling crust was still a delicious housing for the onion-imbued spinach filling.
Ethiopian cuisine - Wikipedia
Since utensils aren't generally provided with the main course, bites of stew and meat are scooped up on pieces of injera, a crepe-like sour bread made from a native Ethiopian grain called teff. The Nile provides unlimited rolled-up injera portions in baskets on your table. These aren't just a complimentary accompaniment to your meal, but rather your utensils, meant to be torn into bite-sized pieces and used to scoop up the thick stews and meats without getting your hands dirty.
Similar to tartare, the meat is chopped finely until the texture resembles that of ground beef; it's then mixed with spiced ghee and served raw with the restaurant's housemade cottage cheese and cooked spinach. Orthodox Christians make up almost half of the Ethiopian population, and it is customary for them to fast every Wednesday and Friday, as well as the entire forty days of Lent.
Fasting in this case does not mean abstaining from eating altogether, but refraining from meat and animal products. Brought out in its own dish and then dumped onto our vegetarian combo tray, the chunks of lamb, fragrant with green pepper and rosemary, nearly overshadowed its turmeric-imbued lentil counterpart, but when scooped up together in a piece of injera, the union of meat, veggie and lentil proved even better than the individual parts.
Slurp-worthy, marrow-filled bones accompany the lamb tibs, and with the level of decadence and quality of the protein, the experience is comparable to that of a fancy steakhouse. It seemed like a normal occurrence, like one big informal family gathering, an example of the underlying vibe of family and community that fills the restaurant, with groups of men having coffee in the corner, parents and children sharing food together and servers gathered at the bar noisily chatting among themselves between checking in on customers.
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter s - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in! During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset, while Ethiopian Orthodox Christians abstain from eating any animal products in the 55 days leading up to Ethiopian Easter. Orthodox Ethiopians also abstain from animal products each Wednesday and Friday.
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There are a very large number of Orthodox feast days, of which 33 honour the Virgin Mary alone. Chat , khat , qat or miraa are the leaves of the shrub Catha edulis. Originating in the hills of eastern Ethiopia the chat plant has spread across parts of East Africa and into southern Arabia, and for many of the inhabitants of this broad swath of land the afternoon chat -chewing session has become almost a pivotal point of life. The effects of chat have long been debated — most users will insist that it gives an unbeatable high, makes you more talkative at least until the come down when the chewer becomes withdrawn and quiet , suppresses hunger, prevents tiredness and increases sexual performance.
Others will tell you that it gives no noticeable high, makes you lethargic, slightly depressed, constipated and reduces sex drive! Most Western visitors who try it report no major effects aside from a possible light buzz and an unpleasant aftertaste.
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Ask for the sweetest chat you can get most Ethiopians regard this as poor quality chat , but first-time chewers find even this very bitter and get a good group of people together to chew with, because chat is, above all else, a social drug. Take yourself off to a quiet and comfortable room — ideally one with a view, sit back, relax and enjoy the conversation while popping leaves individually into your mouth where you literally just store them in one cheek, gently chewing them.
And if you like it enough to want to take some home, remember that chat may be legal in Ethiopia but is illegal in many Western countries, including the UK and the countries of the European Union.
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Eating from individual plates strikes most Ethiopians as hilarious, as well as rather bizarre and wasteful. In Ethiopia, food is always shared from a single plate, without the use of cutlery. In many cases, with a simple Enebla! Please join us! When eating with locals, try not to guzzle.
Greed is considered rather uncivilised. Don't be embarrassed or alarmed at the tradition of gursha , when someone usually the host picks the tastiest morsel and feeds it directly into your mouth. Refusing to take gursha is a terrible slight to the person offering it!
With raw meat being a staple in Ethiopia, what dishes could possibly constitute a radical departure for those wishing to truly travel their tastebuds and try unusual local foods? High on the exotic factor would have to be trippa wat tripe stew , which still curls our toes and shakes our stomachs. Kotcho comes from the false-banana plant known in Ethiopia as enset and closely resembles a fibrous carpet liner. And how about knocking back a shot of the holy water used at the Debre Libanos Monastery to wash the year-old leg of St Tekla Haimanot?
On Wednesday, Friday and throughout the build up to Fasika Lent , vegetarians breathe easy as these are the traditional fasting days, when no animal products should be eaten. Ethiopian fasting food most commonly includes messer lentil curry , gomen minced spinach and kai ser beetroot. Apart from fasting days, Ethiopians are rapacious carnivores and vegetables are often conspicuous by their complete absence.
Note that fancier hotels and some restaurants tend to offer fasting food seven days a week.
Pastries or flowers are good choices in urban areas, while sugar, coffee and fruit are perfect in rural areas. Use just your right hand for eating.
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