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Cuisine (traditional food)

once known as Abyssinia, is a place of high plateaus and low-lying plains. The northern high country is populated mainly by Christians, while the plains are home to Muslims and animists. Dietary restrictions in religions have given rise to a wide variety of both meat and vegetarian dishes.

While most Ethiopian cuisine is indigenous, certain ingredients such as red chilies, ginger, and spices have enriched its flavors. Grains like millet, sorghum, wheat and ancient teff form the basic breadstuffs of the diet. Most farming in Ethiopia is subsistence, so the vegetables and animals are often grown and raised at home. The ancient practice of beekeeping produces exquisite honey. It is fermented to make tej, a honey wine.

Essential components of Ethiopian cooking are injera bread, berbere, a spicy red pepper paste, and niter kibbeh, a spice-infused clarified butter. Most foods have a stewy consistency. Alicha indicates a mild stew. Wats are stews with the spicy flavor of berberé.

An essential spice in Ethiopian cooking is fenugreek. This hard seed gives a unique flavor to Ethiopian food. Desserts are not really served in Ethiopia, but iab, like a mixture of cottage cheese and yogurt, is traditionally the final course of a meal.
Before every meal in Ethiopia, there is a ritual washing of the hands. The meal is then served on a large platter that is draped with crepe like injera bread. All guests eat from this one platter. Various dishes are portioned out onto the injera, and diners simply tear off a piece of the bread, use it to scoop up some of the various stews and pop it in their mouths. Extra injera bread may be served on the side. Honey wine, beer or telba, a flaxseed drink, are served as beverages. Another hand washing ends the meal, and strong coffee is served.

Menus in the best hotels offer international food and Addis Ababa also has a number of good Chinese, Italian and Indian restaurants. Traditional restaurants in larger cities serve food in a grand manner around a brightly colored basket-weave table called a masob. Traditional Ethiopian food does not use pork because most Ethiopians are Muslim or Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Before beginning the meal, guests will be given soap, water and a clean towel, and the right hand is used to break off pieces of bread with which the rest of the meal is gathered up. Cutlery is not used.

       •    Ethiopian food is based on dishes called we't (meat, chicken or vegetables, cooked in a hot pepper sauce) and served with or on injera (a flat spongy bread).
       •    Shivro and misir (chickpeas and lentils, Ethiopian-style).
       •    Tibs (crispy fried steak).
       •    Kitfo (raw or very rare ground beef marinated in a very hot chilli powder).
       •    There is a wide choice of fish including sole, Red Sea snapper, lake fish, trout and prawns.