Ethiopian Cuisine and Etiquette

Ethiopia’s remote topography protects its culture and cuisine from outside influences, keeping it rich in tradition and flavor. Unique spices, grains, and vegetables thrive in Ethiopia’s highlands, with plentiful rainfalls and varying climates. Special cooking methods and healthy combinations of ingredients produce an array of vegetarian, grain, and meat (although no pork) dishes.

Traditional Ethiopian meals are served on a common platter and shared by family and friends. Typically, the meal consists of various vegetables, meat entrées and side dishes It is our custom to eat with the right hand, using a type of bread calledInjera to scoop and eat the food. Injera is a pancake like sourdough flatbread, usually 20 inches in diameter and made from fermented Teff flour. Injera is baked on one side and is therefore porous on one side and flat on the other. The flat side is placed in the palm of the right hand and the porous side is used to collect food. For further instruction on how to eat with Injera, please ask your server. Finfiné can also serve your meal on individual dishes with utensils, if you prefer.

Another beautiful mealtime tradition is Goorsha, the act of feeding a family member or dear friend. This action is a display of affection, respect and honor. To perform Goorsha, smile warmly as you scoop up some food with Ingera and gently place it in your companion’s mouth.

Common Words Used in Ethiopian Cuisine

Alitcha (Stew) andWät (Stew with Berberé [see below]) - Meat or vegetables cooked over low heat in a covered cooking pot for long period of time.

Awazé - A red pepper paste made out of Berberé and red wine or Tëj (see below).

Ayib - Ethiopian cottage cheese. This is a nice combination, which helps to counterbalance spicy foods such as Wät and Kitfo.

Berberé - A mild blend of dried ground chilies.

Boona - Coffee is as important to Ethiopians as it is to Americans; perhaps more so. Ethiopia holds a credible claim to being the birthplace of coffee, which originated in the native province of Kefa, from which it derived its name. In addition, highland-grown coffee is Ethiopia’s biggest export.

Injera - A light, slightly spongy, pancake-like sourdough flatbread made out of Teff flour. The flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment for a few days. It is then ready to bake. The pancakes are eaten by hand with all kinds of stews, vegetable dishes, and stir-frys.

Kitfo - Ethiopian-style steak tartar is an integral part of Ethiopian cuisine and can be sampled at upscale and reliable restaurants, such as here at Finfiné.

Mit’mit’a - A hot blend of dried ground chilies.

Nitër Kebbéh - A clarified spiced butter infused with ginger, garlic, and several spices.

Shai - Tea is commonly grown in lowland areas of Ethiopia. Water is brewed with a variety of spices and black tea, which has a smiliar flavor as that of "Masala Chai" tea from India.

Teff (Eragrostis tef, Poaceae) - A species of gluten-free grain native to Ethiopia. It is similar to millet in nutrition and in cooking, but the seed is much smaller. It is an important staple in Ethiopia, where it is used to make Injera. Teff has been proven to have high nutritional value.

Tëj - A honey wine with a deceptively sweet taste that masks its high alcohol content. You can experience this traditional drink right here at Finfiné.

Tibs (Stir Fry) - Sauteed diced beef, chicken or fish (can be a filet as well) and vegetables.

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