So I had to do a little spotlight on my country’s cuisine because #habeshapride. Habesha migib means “Ethiopian food” in the native Amharic language. Because of its deeply rooted religious practices, Ethiopia’s cuisine is predominantly vegetarian/vegan to accommodate tsom, the fasting season. In restaurants, these dishes are labeled as “Tsom Beyanetu” meaning “the fasting variety”. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy these dishes, though. My husband, who thinks meatless meals are just side dishes, actually prefers the vegetarian dishes over the meat options.
Vegetarian dishes are made mostly with lentils, chickpeas, green vegetables like collard greens and spinach, cabbage, carrots, potatoes or beets. The dishes are high in plant-based proteins, vitamins and minerals. Not only is this a great option for vegetarians, but Ethiopian food utilizes a variety of spices that provide an abundance of nutritional benefits.
The ingredients used to spice most every Ethiopian dish are:
• Ginger: a good source of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants.
• Garlic: antibiotic properties, and may reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis and stomach/colorectal cancers.
• Turmeric: well known for its anti-inflammatory properties.
• Berbere (similar to cayenne pepper) contains capsaicin, which may aid in digestion.
• Red onion: contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber (read: healthy gut), vitamin C, and folate.
So now that you know what spices are in the foods, let me introduce you to injera. It is a gray, spongy, sour, pancake-like bread on which all entrees are placed. This is also what you use to wrap the different entrees in and form your bites. Injera is made from teff, a naturally gluten free flour with a high iron content. The best part about Ethiopian food is you get to eat with your fingers! No utensils involved!
Here are my favorite tsom dishes.
Mesir alicha: lentils stewed with turmeric and onions
Shiro: chickpea flour or split pea flour with onions in a creamy stew like consistency
Fasolia: green beans with carrots
Gomen: kale/collard greens stewed with garlic and onions
Timatim fitfit: injera with lemon juice, garlic, tomatoes, onion, jalapeno peppers, salt
Kaysir: cooked beets with potatoes
Tikil gomen: cabbage with carrots, onions, and turmeric
Souf fitfit: safflower seeds, a polyunsaturated fat, boiled, blended, strained, spiced and tossed with injera
Azifa: cold lentil salad
Kinchae: cooked bulgur sautéed with onions garlic, salt, and jalapenos