Abyssinia: My Introduction to Ethiopian Food

Last night, after I made some muffins (wow! I am getting so domestic), I met my friend and co-worker Ferial and her sister Noren for dinner at Abyssinia. This is their favourite Ethiopian restaurant in Nairobi. Actually, I think it is their favourite restaurant handsdown.

The atmosphere was lovely with a nice patio and friendly service. The food is presented in an impressive manner for sharing the experience with friends and family. Eating from one plate signifies the bonds of loyalty and friendship. The injera bread serves at the base for a giant platter which various meats, salads, curries, and sauces are then served on. Then the sauces are served separately in cast-iron pots that have coals underneath to make sure it stays warm, bubbly, and aromatic.

mmm Ethiopian Platter of Yum!

The waiter and the manager found out this was my first experience with Ethiopian cuisine so they made sure they were around for my first bite. I was taught that the trick to eating this tasty, taaaasty food is to flop the injera onto the sauce, pick the injera up with 5 fingers to get the optimal amount sauce, then grab up some grilled meat and toss it in your mouth. Aahhh – It was so good! There are a variety of sauces to choose from with varying degrees of spiciness. My favourite was an orange one that was made of chickpeas and unique spices, that was pretty mild because I am wussy with spice here.

From a quick internet search of Ethiopian cuisine I found out some interesting facts:

1. “Injera” is the staple flatbread made of a fine grain called “Teff“, which is unique to Ethiopia. The teff is fermented, so the bread is nice and light but expands in your belly when it is being digested and suddenly you find yourself very full.

2. A big part of Ethiopian food is “Wot“, which is a stew that consists of a lot of red onions, some cooking oil, berbere (a chilli pepper sauce), meat such as chicken, beef, lamb, or goat, and then veggies such as legumes, lentils, potatoes, carrots, and chard in different combinations.

3. Ethiopian food uses a variety of cooking oils such as sesame and safflower.

4. Many of their dishes are vegan because the Ethiopian Orthodox Church requires a number of fasting periods.

5. “Tibs“, which is what I had last night, is meat such as beef, chicken, lamb, or goat and veggies that are sautéed with salad as an accompaniment. I really enjoyed having the injera, sauce, meat and some salad in one bite.

6. Food is served under a Mesob, which is like a little straw woven hat for the plate to keep the food warm.

7. Ethiopian food is meant to be eaten with your hands. The right hand is used to rip off a piece of injera and pick up all the fixin’s and then eaten. There is a tradition called Goorsha, where one would prepare a bite of food in this way BUT then feed it to their friend as a display of friendship. The bigger the Goorsha, the stronger the friendship.

8. Ethiopia is famous for excellent coffee and it is a big part of the dining experience and at the end of every meal a coffee ceremony is prepared and enjoyed.

For more info check out this website!

I recommend everyone to look up a good Ethiopian restaurant and try it out one night… Food Adventure! Prepare yourselves friends … I’m introducing you to Ethiopian when I get home. And I am definitely going back to Abyssinia before I leave Nairobi 🙂

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