Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ethiopian Food Huzzahh!!!!!

One of the things I was most looking forward to in visiting Ethiopia was the FOOD. I tried it in the US, and as a result all I knew about it was there was some spongy like bread (Injera), communal style eating, strong coffee, and maybe some raw meat involved. However it was really amazing to experience non-Americanized Ethiopian food first hand. Let me say, I successfully endured the notorious fire-like spice that is dumped on everything, called berbere, albeit with only a little burn. And all the while never had to use silverware to eat in 2 weeks, a first for me! 

In Addis Ababa I got to experience eating out at restaurants of varying quality for a week, the best being in an unfinished, uninsulated building with poker games going on in the majority of the room and with welding and steel cutting operations taking place nearly within spitting distance (luckily the sparks didn't make it into the food)...the price was accordingly dirt cheap but the taste was unexpectedly high. While in Bahir Dar and Gondar I experienced real, traditional cooking from Netsanet's wife (Sanit), and Sanit's aunt. I must admit, although amazingly delicious, it did get a bit tiring to eat injera 3 times a day for two straight weeks. Product of a melting pot society in the US with a simply amazing variety of choice. However, it does not detract from the fact that Ethiopia  definitely has food deeply rooted in it's culture. From sharing off of the same plate (I had to learn to eat fast so I kept up with everyone and wasn't left with just a few bites), to feeding each other, to preparing very particular foods which are lovingly prepared and having a coffee ceremony when guests are invited over. I also experienced a kindness not seen in so many other places, always being urged to eat more and really make sure I was full. In my opinion we don't really treat guests like that, at least to such an extent, in the US. 

And aside from the meals, they have a fairly limited but phenomenal selection of fruits. I mean, the bananas I tasted there blew any bananas out of the water that I have ever tasted by a nearly a googoleplex (an official number, by the way). The mangoes, papayas, and a maracuya like fruit were all full of flavor (probably thanks in part to the fact that what we call 'organic' fruit is miraculously actually just 'normal' food here) The only fruit they seemed to import was apples, which were priced at 5 times any other fruit (even higher than European or US prices for apples!). It is in part to tasting such great and natural fruit in Ethiopia and places like Serbia that I have started to move away from buying the bland, seemingly perfect yet chemically laden garbage that fills most supermarkets, gravitating toward a great Sunday market in Gent with a guy who grows his produce and vegetables just outside the city and tastes fabulous. Also, since many people do not have refrigeration, they use a butter that can be stored at room temps. It has a rancid smell to it but once cooked is great. Oh, and I don't know where this reputation of Ethiopians being skinnier than everyone else comes from, but I must say I didn't see anything out of the norm.

PS. Average price of meal out for 3 people: $2-4!

On to the pictures of yumminess:

Sanit cooks shiro. Bet you can't say you've ever had that setup as your main means of cooking (and cooked a bad ass meal at the same time!). Time to be slightly humbled.

I already blogged on this...but here we are with our recently purchased goat.


Sanit barraged by the goat herd being shuttled to the market
This guy is showing me Khat directly from the source. It basically has a similar effect as a jolt of coffee. Guess what, it is banned in the US, Canada, and some places in Europe. Fairly common here though
You are officially a winner if you cook a spectacular meal in this kitchen.

A market in Bahir Dar. Spice & Beans section.

Unroasted coffee beans (the only way it's sold)

injera with some fried chicken and rice. Dang, that was a good meal

A spice stall at the market.
Chuchu's mom makes injera in this every 3 or 4 days, which takes 3 days and last about the same amount of time. If you don't make it yourself, most people seem to buy it fresh every day or two.

Basket for storing injera.

Another spread of things.

Freshly made juice! Banana, Mango, and Avocado mixture.

The liquidy stuff is shiro, a staple made from ground beans.

Another good one.

Sanit buying some fruits.

Forget what this was...Looks cool though.

I think this is Bayanet - a tray with a mix of prepared foods on it served over (and with!) injera

Chicken Wat - A traditional recipe (made by Sanit's friend's family when the invited me over as as a guest). They had to buy a live chicken that day to make this, so it was a big deal. Lots of preparation goes into it. Hours of boiling. DELICIOUS.

Roasting coffee beans

First Meal in Ethiopia!

 Firfir (chopped up and cooked injera, or what I jokingly refer to as eating Injera with more Injera)

Tibs, I think?

 My first coffee! Roasting the beans, like usual. Let's just say neither instant coffee nor Starbucks exists or is sufficient here.
Brilliant Coffee. 3 cups for coffee ceremony
Netsanet debates whether to buy one of this guys chickens
Dinner is Served

 This is a very common grain/snack. The runners eat it. So do the monks.  

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