CEBU, Philippines – Having been introduced to Ethiopian cuisine by my good friend, Hanna Rahwa Solomon from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, I knew instantly that I was in for a treat! Unfamiliar to this type of cuisine, I was intrigued to sample every single dish that was spread on the table.
I was curious to try their principal dietary food, the Ethiopian flat pancake-like staple bread with a distinctly slight sour taste made out of fermented teff flour called Injera. Having learned that Injera is unique to Ethiopia, Hanna taught me the proper way of eating it, which is done by tearing a small piece off with your hands (bearing in mind that the side with holes is the one that makes the best contact with the sauce) and use it to scoop some saucy meat without the help of utensils. I had the time of my life!
Since Ethiopian cuisine was all new to me, I was really impressed with its unique presentation and flavor, using niter kibbeh (a type of butter infused with spices). Looking around, I also noticed the decorated walls in Amharic script, which went well with the traditional low seating. I am not accustomed to spicy food, though I did sample one called doro wot (hot saucy chicken served with boiled egg). I think it complimented the injera very well. In general, the dishes are mainly mild and tender, identical to the “injera platter,” a mixture of meat (with the exception of pork) and vegetable sauce-based dishes (almost similar to curry). One distinct dish on this platter, which consists of raw or rare minced beef prepared with spices, is called kitfo, which tasted quite nice. As dishes are served on a round tray that is covered with a piece of injera, it makes it easy to put more than just one type of dish unto your plate. An Ethiopian meal is also best washed down with brewed beer made from barley, a taste that is light and almost fruity.
After the long meal, very strong Ethiopian coffee (buna) was served together with popcorn. As coffee is an important ceremony in Ethiopia, it is also a tradition to have it served in a jebana (a clay pot in which the coffee is brewed). As a guest, I was made to smell the beans, freshly roasted before me, before it was put on the table. This, I thought was such a remarkable presentation! Since then, I’d consider looking more into the wonders of Ethiopian cuisine.