Ethiopian cuisine characteristically consists of vegetable and often very spicy meat dishes, usually in the form of w'et or wot, a thick stew, served atop injera(a flat bread), a large which is made out of fermented Teff flour. Ethiopians eat exclusively with their right hands, using pieces of injera to pick up bites of entrées and side dishes. Utensils are rarely used with Ethiopian cuisine.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church prescribes a number of fasting periods, including Wednesdays, Fridays, and the entire Lenten season, so Ethiopian cuisine contains many dishes that are vegetarian.
Ethiopian cuisine mostly consists of breads, stews (known as wat), grains, and spices. Typically, an Ethiopian meal consists of a combination of different colors of Injera(usually white and brown flatbread) with different spiced wats, yet each cultural group has their unique variation.
Guraghe cuisine additionally makes use of the false banana plant (Enset), a type of Enset. The plant is pulverized and fermented to make a bread-like food called Qocho, which is eaten with kitfo. The root of this plant may be powdered and prepared as a hot drink called bulla, which is often given to those who are tired or ill. Another typical Gurage preparation is coffee with butter (kebbe).
Coffee is also a large part of Ethiopian culture/cuisine; after every meal or snack a Coffee ceremony is enacted and espresso coffee is served.
Berbere, a combination of powdered Chili Pepper and other spices is an important ingredient used in many dishes. A clarified butter infused with ginger, garlic, and several spices is also essential.
In their adherence to strict fasting(According to Ethiopian Orthodox Belief any animal products like egg, Butter, Meat, Cheese and milk are not taken until the fasting period is over), Ethiopian cooks have developed a rich array of cooking oil sources—besides Sesame and Niger seed for use as a substitute for animal fats which is forbidden during fasting periods. Ethiopian cuisine also uses Suf (known also as SunFlower seed)
Injera(a flat bread with slightly a spongy texture) is made from a cereal grain that is unique known as Tef. Though t'efs is unique to Ethiopia it is diverse in color and habitat. Tef is a member of the grass genus Eragrostis or lovegrass. T'ef will grow in many areas it is not an easy crop to farm. One problem in particular is that the weight of the grain bends the stem to the ground.
Fortunately for the Ethiopian Jews ( and all Ethiopians) depends on Tef Ingera, as a staple of their diet. Tef is nutritional miracle food. It contains two to three times the iron of wheat or barley. The calcium, potassium and other essential minerals are also many times what would be found in an equal amount of other grains. Tef has 14% protein, 3% fat and 81% complex carbohydrate.
Tef is the only grain to have symbiotic yeast. Like grapes, the yeast is on the grain so no yeast is added in the preparation of ingera.
Tef is milled to flour and made into batter. the batter is allowed to sit so the yeast can become active. When the batter is ready it is poured on a large flat oven and allowed to cook. This process is much harder than it sounds and it is recommended buying from an Ethiopian Market or Restaurant in your area. Make sure it is Tef Ingera not a substitute Western grains.
Wat begins with a large amount of chopped red Onion, which is simmered or sauteed in a pot. Once the onions have softened, Vegetable oil is added. Following this, berbere is added to make a spicy keiy wat. Turmeric is used instead of bebere for a milder Alicha Wot or both are omitted when making vegetable stews. Atakilit Wot. Meat such as Beaf, Chicken(Main Dish which is served when unusual guests arrive), Fish, goat or lamb Tibes(A traditional way of cooking a roasted lamb) is also added. Legumes such as Split peas, Lentil or Vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and Chards(Costa) are also used instead in vegan dishes.
Each variation is named by appending the main ingredient to the type of wat; for example: kek alicha wat. However, the word key is usually not necessary as the spicy variety is assumed when it is omitted; for example: doro wat. The term atkilt wat is sometimes used to refer to all vegetable dishes, but a more specific name can also be used as in dinich'na carot wat which translates to "potatoes and carrots stew," but notice the word "atkilt is usually omitted when using the more specific term.
tibs as a portion of grilled meat served "to pay a particular compliment or show especial respect to someone." This is perhaps still true as the dish is still prepared today to commemorate special events and holidays.
Meat along with vegetables are fried to make tibs. Tibs is served in a variety of manners and can range from hot to mild or contain little to no vegetables. There are many variations of tibs, depending on type and size or shape of the cuts of meat used.
Coffee (buna) holds a legitimate claim as originating from Ethiopia, where it is a critical component of the economy and is a central part of Ethiopian beverages.
The coffee ceremony is the traditional serving of coffee, usually after a big meal. It often involves the use of a coffee pot locally known as “Jebena”, a clay coffee pot in which the coffee is boiled. The preparer roasts the coffee beans right in front of guests, then walks around wafting the smoke throughout the room so participants may sample the scent of coffee. Then the preparer (usually women) grinds the coffee beans in a traditional tool Mortar and pistol (mokecha in Amharic). The coffee is put in to the jebena, boiled with water, and then served with small cups called si'ni. Coffee is usually served with salt especially in the country side salt is preffered but is also served with suger in many parts of Ethiopia. In some parts of the country, nit kibbeh is added instead of sugar or salt.
Snacks such as popcorn or toasted barley (Kollo in Amharic) is often served with the coffee. In most homes a dedicated coffee area is surrounded by fresh grass, with special furniture for the coffee maker. A complete ceremony has three rounds(or steps) of coffee (Abol, Tona and Bereka) and is accompanied by the burning of frank incense.