Some regions go the extra mile with food and make it truly unique to the culture. Ethiopian dishes truly live up to that standard with varieties of food that you can find nowhere else.
From the spongy, sour injera used to soak up every last morsel of flavor to the inspired preparation behind each different dish, the more unique aspect of Ethiopian food is the flavor.
Spicy, aromatic, and an orchestration for your taste buds, two spices define and create the many ethnic dishes from this region. The first is berbere. The milder of the two, but still packing a spicy punch, is distinguished by a deep red color and enough olfactory power to stimulate salvation just from merely a waft of it. It is used as a table seasoning in lieu of salt, to make a dipping sauce called awaze, or as the flavor base for the popular red curry known as wot. The primary spices in this blend are fenugreek seeds, cayenne pepper, paprika. Others generally include garlic, salt, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, all spice berries, white or green cardamom pods, whole cloves, dry onion flakes, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. You can either buy a pre-made blend or make your own.
The sauce created from berbere and served as a condiment for dipping is called awaze. It is rich, tangy, and HOT. The three stars of this sauce are berebere, red wine or tej, and garlic, in addition to some oil, water, lemon juice, a bit of honey (if not using tej) and for added heat a pinch or so of mitmita.
Mitmita is the second spice blend used in Ethiopian dishes, traditionally as a table seasoning or paired with a dish of raw meat called kitfo. This blend has a more orange-red hue because its components consist of turmeric, Birdseye chili peppers, Ethiopian cardamom (korarima), salt, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, and ginger. As with berbere, it can be purchased in a pre-mixed blend or you can try to recreate your own.
Once you add these blends to your spice rack you can make any delicious dish from Ethiopia right from home. So stop asking the age-old question, “what’s for dinner?”, producing the usual spread of Mexican, Italian, or American, and surprise your loved ones with something daring, unique, and flavorful. They will be asking for more.