Ethiopia’s cuisine is deeply aromatic and richly flavored, and is eaten in a way that’s unfamiliar to many Westerners. Most dishes are served communally on a thin, sour, spongy (gluten-free if that happens to be your thing) bread called injera made from the teff grain. Diners pull off pieces of the injera and scoop up the food (spiced, sauced meats or ‘fasting’ (vegetarian) dishes such as lentils, greens and chickpeas), then pop each personally curated bite into their mouths. It might seem intimidating to some, which is why kicking off a visit to Ethiopia with a cooking class is a great way to demystify the cuisine and get to the bottom of its many delicious flavors!
In advance of the recent Travel Ethiopia/Kusini FAM, I had the chance to take a cooking class – my first time cooking Ethiopian food. We learned to make Ethiopian fasting ‘Beyaynetu’ dishes, including Keye Misir (spiced red lentils), Shiro (chickpea stew), Alicha Kik (yellow split pea stew), Kosta (Ethiopian collard greens), Caroht be Dinish (potato and carrot stew), Timatim Salata (tomato salad) and Keye Sir (Ethiopian beets and potatoes). Believe it or not, we managed to make all of the dishes in just over an hour under the expert instruction of local chef and restaurateur Yasser.
In addition to learning about (and tasting) one of the all-important spice mixes and foundational elements of Ethiopian cuisine – berbere – we rolled our sleeves up and chopped, mixed, sauteed, stirred and tasted our way through each step of the dishes before settling down to feast on our efforts. Yasser and his assistants made the dishes (and cooking them) feel super approachable and made the class extremely fun and interactive. We created and devoured delectable dishes, and it unquestionably made the cuisine more accessible to those who weren’t yet familiar with it.
While travelers can find Italian cuisine (often with an Ethiopian twist) throughout the country, as well as some Western dishes, it would be a shame not to experience Ethiopian food. It’s an opportunity to really connect with the people and the culture and to expand your culinary horizons!
Travel Ethiopia can also offer other special interest tours in Addis. Inquire about adding a market visit to shop for ingredients in advance of the cooking class (tip – we prefer shopping at Sholla Market rather than the thronging Merkato), a nightlife/music tour to check out Addis’ jazz scene, or an art and handicraft tour to discover a variety of creative talent in the city.