Dining in Ethiopia is characterized by the ritual of breaking injera and eating from the same plate, signifying the bonds of loyalty and friendship. The quintessence of those bonds are often demonstrated in the form of gursha-that is, the placing of food in the mouth of another diner from one’s own “hand.” Injera, the traditional Ethiopian bread, is part of every entrée. It is a large crepe/pancake upon which the various stew-like dishes are served. The traditional way of eating is with the fingers, which is in itself a delicate art.
Ethiopian Food Culture:
Ethiopian food is eaten with fingers because it is tasteful and intimate. Traditionally, in Ethiopia, one does not eat food alone or from a separate plate. Ethiopians say, "Food tastes better when they eat it together." Therefore, food is generally eaten in a group sitting around a wide serving basket (known as mesob), feeding not only oneself but also hand-feeding (giving gursha to one another, especially guests, as an expression of love and hospitality. 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. Berbere is the source of the dark red color in all the hot dishes in Ethiopia. Finely minced onions, berbere, water and seasoned butter are cooked long and slow over low heat until they become emulsified. Although red pepper is the main ingredient in berbere, its is sun-dried together with almost 20 other spices and herbs before being milled extra-fine.
Nitr Kibe: Another Ethiopian basic, Nitr Kibe is pure clarified butter seasoned with several condiments and used in traditional sauteing. Almost all of the herbs and spices in Ethiopian cuisine are fused in the clarified butter. The butter is heated slowly to absorb the flavors of as many as thirty seasonings including basil, garlic, cumin, turmeric and coriander to produce kibe. The kibe (the k pronounced with a click) imparts a flavor so balanced and intense that one cannot discern one spice.
Key Wot: A lively sauce prepared with berbere, Nitr 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