Food and Drink
Ethiopian cuisine revolves around enjera – a large, spongy pancake made of endemic cereal flour called teff which is fermented to give it a distinctive, slightly sour taste. The enjera serves as both a plate and cutlery: chili-laden stews (wot) and meat are served on it, and pieces of enjera are torn off and used to pick these up. Dexterous Ethiopians eat using only their right hands.
Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fast every Wednesday and Friday and for 55 days before Easter. During this time, they consume only vegan foods, and some will also eat fish. Outside of large towns it is hard to find meat during this long fast, and some restaurants will offer fasting and non-fasting versions of dishes (i.e. with or without butter).
For 55 days following the lent fast, meat is eaten in abundance. There is no fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, and vegetarians will have limited options in small towns.
The widely available juices are delicious, cheap, and nutritious – try the mixed juice, in which seasonal fruit juices such as mango, avocado, and papaya are served in colorful layers. Ask for your drink "yale sukar" if you don’t want sugar.
While Addis Ababa has many good international restaurants, Ethiopian food is frequently the only option in other areas. Menus will be in the local language with phonetic English translations – so here are a few common words. Spellings will vary!
Tibs – small cooked pieces of meat (may be beef, goat, or lamb)
Shiro – a very common sauce made of chickpea, bean, or pea flour and flavored with berbere, a bright red mix of numerous spices.
Beyanetu – a good option for those new to Ethiopian cuisine and available in both vegan (yetsom) and meat (mahberawi). The yestom beyaynetu includes a selection of stews including beans, split peas, and vegetables and is served with enjera. The mahberawi beyaynetu includes a wide selection of cooked and raw meats and local cottage cheese (aiyb).
Meat options include chicken (doro), lamb (beg), beef (bere), and goat (fiyel).
Kitfo - warmed (not cooked) minced beef mixed with either butter and herbs or Ethiopian cheese and shredded cabbage. Try only if you have a strong stomach!
Tej – honey wine