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Ethiopian Cultural Foods

Ethiopian Cultural Food

12th October 2017


Dining on Ethiopian cultural food is characterized by the ritual of breaking "injera" and sharing food from a common plate, signifying the bonds of loyalty and friendship.

The traditional way of eating is with fingers. "Injera" is placed on the plate with variety of dishes decoratively arranged around it. A small portion of "Injera" is torn off and wrapped around a mouthful of the selected dish.

"Injera", our staple bread, is a flat bread made of "Teff", a fine grain unique to Ethiopia. "Wot" is dipping sauce which maybe prepared using a variety of meats, fish, and vegetables. "Wot" is cooked with "Berbere" (Ethiopian seasoning prepared from matured red chili pepper and other exotic spices) which may range from very mild to spicy hot. "Alitcha" is more mildly spiced dipping sauce prepared with a variety of meats or vegetables.

Ethiopian cultural dishes are prepared with a distinctive variety of unique spices for an unforgettably striking dimension to exotic cookery. To help you make the best of choice for this truly different and exciting dinning experience we offer the following descriptions:

  • Berbere : A popular Ethiopian seasoning prepared from red chili peppers, garlic, & other spice. Berbere is sun-dried then mixed with more spices & used in wots.
  • Nitir Kibe : Another Ethiopian basic, Nitir Kibe is pure clarified butter seasoned with several condiments and used in traditional sauteing.
  • Kaey Wot : A lively sauce prepared with berbere, nitir kibe & meat, fish or legumes.
  • Alitcha : A delicately mild sauce made from meat, legumes or beans with garlic, ginger and Ird.
  • Mitmita : Bird's eye red pepper spiced with cardamom & salt, usually served with Kitfo.
Ethiopian Cultural Coffee

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

This is one of the most enjoyable events you can attend at an Ethiopian Restaurant. The coffee is taken through its full life cycle of preparation in front of you in a ceremonial manner. Coffee is called 'Bunna' (boo-na) by the Ethiopians.

The ceremony starts with the woman, first bringing out the washed coffee beans and roasting them in a coffee roasting pan on small open fire/coal furnace. The pan is similar to an old fashioned popcorn roasting pan and it has a very long handle to keep the hand away from the heat. At this time most of your senses are being involved in the ceremony, the woman will be shaking the roasting pan back and forth so the beans won't burn (this sounds like shaking coins in a tin can), the coffee beans start to pop (sounds like popcorn) and the most memorable is the preparer takes the roasted coffee and walks it around the room so the smell of freshly roasted coffee fills the air ...

The roasted coffee is then put in a small household tool called 'Mukecha' (moo-ke-ch-a) for the grinding. Most restaurants at this time incorporate modern coffee grinders into the process, this is to save time and it does not take much from the ceremony. For those interested mukecha is a heavy wooden bowl where the coffee beans are put and another tool called 'zenezena' which is a wooden/metal stick used to crush the beans in a rhythmic up & down manner (pistil and mortar).

The crushed fresh roasted coffee powder then is put in a traditional pot made out of clay called 'jebena' (J-be-na) with water and boiled in the small open fire/coal furnace. Again the boiling coffee aroma fills the room, once boiled the coffee is served in small cups called 'cini' (si-ni) which are very small chinese cups.

As you sip your first cup of coffee, you've gone through the full process of watching seeing the coffee beans being washed, roasted, grinded, boiled & now the culmination you're drinking them. By now the process is finished at most restaurants, but traditionally Ethiopians stick around to get at least a second serving of coffee and sometimes a third.

The second and third serving are important enough that each serving has a name, first serving is called "Abol"; second serving is "Huletegna"(second) and third serving is "Bereka". The coffee is not grinded for the second and third serving, a portion of coffee powder is left on purpose for these two ceremonies.

Honey Wine

Tej - 'Tej' is pronounced as in T'édge, and is the generic name for Ethiopian traditional Honey Wine or Mead. Tej = Ethiopian Honey Wine.

Tej is one of the special elixirs only available in Ethiopia. Be careful though - this sweet wine packs a punch. Tej is served in tej bet (Téj House, similar to Coffee House), or special bars set up strictly to sell tej either by the glass(glass is called Berele Be-re-lé) or by the bottle to take home. Several restaurants serving traditional Ethiopian fare also offer tej on the menus. The distilling ritual, with glass beakers reminiscent of high school chemistry lessons, is fun to watch.

Ethiopians purchase gallons of honey at a time to produce the mead and the taste can be as individual as the imagination of the person making it. The same recipe can vary from mother to daughter, for the mead is made from instinct as much as from a recipe. The extract of a native Ethiopian tree, the Gesho (similar to Hazel) imparts a bitter quality to the T'ej making it the ideal drink to complement the spicy cultural food of the Ethiopians. The honey- sweet, bitter, dry tone of T'ej is enhanced by the food.

Want to Try Ethiopian Cultural Food?

We offer a variety of Tours to Ethiopia that highlight many different parts of this wonderful country. Join us on an adventure and we can show you why Ethiopia is one of our favorite places to visit.


Nardia Sullivan

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