Ethiopian Food - A Mind-Blowing Eating Experience That Will Change Your Life
You know when you find out about one of the most flavorful and vegan-friendly cuisines in the world and you can't possibly understand how you didn't know about it sooner? That's exactly how we felt after our first life-changing mouthful of Ethiopian food.
Our newest food obsession began at the Ethiopian restaurant Teff in Stamford, Connecticut - which might be one of the most unlikely places to first try Ethiopian food but we digress. The cuisine was at the time completely new to both of us. However, we could clearly see a resemblance between it and one of our favorites - South Indian Food.
Let's just say our first meal at Teff was all the introduction we needed to become hooked on this mind-blowing cuisine. As avid lovers of spices, the food seriously hit all the right spots and we could not get enough.
Veganism in Ethiopia
The Ethiopian cuisine is very vegan-friendly due to strict fasting periods imposed by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The periods include all Wednesdays and Fridays as well as Lent and other holidays.
During fasting you are not allowed to consume any animal products which has inspired the Ethiopian people to get creative with vegetables, legumes, and cooking oils. Sesame, safflower, and olive oils are widely used throughout the country. With that said we want to warn you that they use clarified butter (similar to Indian ghee) in a lot of dishes so make sure to always double check if the menu doesn’t specify that it’s vegan.
Ethiopian food is commonly compromised of various wats, delicious stew like dishes that vary widely in color and flavor. Whenever you get the chance, you HAVE to try some of these vegan Ethiopian dishes below.
Injera is the traditional fermented spongy flatbread that’s eaten in the region (Ethiopia, Eritrea and to some extent in Somalia) and it’s a staple that accompanies every single meal. This Ethiopian flatbread is made from teff flour, a highly nutritious gluten free grain.
Thanks to our weak spot for carbs we instantly fell in love with injera and were intrigued by the fact that it was both very similar yet completely different to the Indian dosa. The dosa is usually thinner, crispy, and seasoned while the injera is thicker and softer with a bit of a sour aftertaste.
Injera is used to scoop up mouthwatering curries and takes the place as your knife and fork. It can seem weird and uncomfortable to eat with your hands at first but it's something you should definitely try. Eating with a knife and fork only uses three senses: sight, smell, and taste. But when you eat with your hands you also get to experience the food with your touch which allows you to have a deeper connection with the food and makes for some extra fun.
Berbere is a spice mix that's commonly found in the Ethiopian Kitchen. It is used as a base to make many Ethiopian dishes. The recipe varies a lot depending on who you ask and where it is made but berbere is typically made from chili peppers, paprika, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, and more local spices such as korarima, rue, ajwain and radhuni. You can pick some up at your local Ethiopian grocery store if you're interested in trying it.
Fitfit is a cold injera based salad that's usually served as breakfast or as an appetizer. It's made from shredded injera, tomatoes, onions, olive oil, and jalapeños.
Ingudai tibs are a traditional Ethiopian dish made from portobello mushrooms that are marinated and sautéed with red onions, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers as well as a blend of spices. The tibs we ate at Teff (the middle dish in the picture above) could be ordered light, medium, or spicy and quickly became the go-to dish for Adam.
Shiro is an essential part of the Ethiopian cuisine and a dish that's traditionally eaten during the fasting periods. It's a stew made from ground chickpea and broad bean flour (sometimes pureed) seasoned with onions, garlic, and berbere spices and is almost always vegan. The yellow curry in the picture above is shiro and it is ah-mazing!
Ethiopia has a strong coffee culture that dates back hundreds of years. Coffee is usually enjoyed after big meals with a sweet snack or popcorn. Teff in Stamford, CT actually serves their own Ethiopian coffee from imported beans that they roast and brew right in the restaurant which we thought was really cool.
Our New Food Obsession
Eating at Teff ended up opening our eyes to a whole new cuisine that we had never thought about trying before and that we definitely had no idea was so vegan-friendly. What started as a casual dinner ended up becoming the starting point for a new food obsession. Trust us, the Ethiopian kitchen does not disappoint. Combine the endless vegan choices with the creative mixtures of spices, vegetables, and legumes and you get some of the best food we have ever eaten.
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