Ethiopia lies in the “horn of Africa”, on the east side near the Arabian sea. Its history dates back over 3 million years. Being a very hot climate and also landlocked, the resources available to them were limited, but this did not prevent the people of Ethiopia from developing and perfecting a cuisine that is simultaneously filling, nutritious, and damn tasty. Though Ethiopia is no stranger to meats, a lot of traditional dishes are vegetarian and even vegan. I had never eaten Ethiopian food, let alone cooked it and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Spoiler alert: I loved it!
The classic bayanetu platter seemed like the perfect choice for our Ethiopia episode. Bayanetu is essentially small portions of different vegetables and stews, which are scooped on top of a soft and sour “injera” bread, which is used both as a plate and a utensil for eating. Oh yes, EAT WITH YOUR HANDS. It’s how it is done, folks. Injera bread is similar to sourdough, but in flatbread form and fermented for longer than a traditional sourdough bread that westerners might be more familiar with.
We chose to make five dishes for our platter. The first was Kik Alicha, a yellow split pea stew, with garlic, ginger, and turmeric. It was creamy and simple and had some textural variance, with some of the split peas somehow staying intact, despite the long cook time. Our second dish, Misir Wat, followed a similar pattern to the Kik Alicha, but was spicy, as it substituted turmeric with berbere spice mixture. Berbere is a mixture of spices which you can probably find in your own kitchen, such as cayenne, cumin, and cinnamon. It brought modest lentils to a whole new level. Let’s put it this way, though the two first dishes began the same way, the final result was very different thanks to the addition of the berbere spice mix.
Our heartiest dish of the night was the Atkilt Wat, a spicy mixture of potatoes, carrots, and cabbage with the essence of garlic and ginger throughout. We really enjoyed the simplicity and straightforwardness of this dish and it paired perfectly with the injera. Perhaps the most unfamiliar dish of the night was Shiro, a mixture of chickpea flour and spices, that mingle with onion, tomato, ginger, and garlic to become a delicious and flavorful paste. This brings us on to our last dish, the Gomen. Gomen is traditionally made with collard greens, but after trying multiple stores unsuccessfully, we decided to use kale, which was chopped fine and sautéed in ghee with the onions and dusted with cumin and coriander, creating a fresh and nutritious bite of food.
Overall, my first encounter with Ethiopian cuisine was very positive and honestly, I keep forgetting the fact that this was an entirely vegetarian meal (could be vegan if you replace ghee with oil). Ethiopian food is healthy, simple, and unpretentious and uses ingredients which are readily available, to make a cuisine that is impressive in both taste and nutrition. We encourage you to try this food. Even if you think you aren’t quite ready to cook it yourself, go to your nearest Ethiopian restaurant and order a bayanetu platter. And definitely share it with a friend.
For Full Recipe: https://www.dinnernational.com/post/s02e02-ethiopian-bayanetu-platter
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