Ethiopia can be whether a paradise or hell for you in terms of food. Many people around the world appreciate Ethiopian cuisine as very unique, but others fear it for its spiciness. You should be able to have a wide variety of options, from the hottest local food to vegetarian to international options as well.
The main food served in everyday’s Ethiopian dishes is called injera, which is just a flat fermented bread with spongy texture, made from the flour of the tiniest cereal in the world: teff, which grows in Ethiopia and it is believed to be the super-cereal of the 21st century, having lots of properties, being high in dietary fiber and iron and providing protein and calcium as well.
Injera is served pretty much with anything, like we would do with bread somewhere else in the world. All types of stews, veggies and meats are placed on top according to your order, and you usually share it with people, respecting your side of the injera and usually eating with your right hand.
The good news is that injera is gluten-free, so it is an excellent option for celiacs. Regarding vegetarians, there is plenty of veggie food as orthodoxes fast from animal products more than 200 days a year! Of course you can always have meet with injera, served in different ways, even raw!
In many places you will find international food, most commonly pizzas, burgers and pasta. Fish is fresh only in towns by the lakes, though the variety goes only from Nile Perch to Tilapia and that’s all. A good restaurant guide can be found in “What’s Out Addis”, a pamphlet that is freely delivered to most hotels and restaurants. Grab one if you see it! There is some international cuisine presence in Addis: Japanese, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Indian, Lebanese, etc. There is a company that has recently started a food delivery services: deliveraddis.com (even though you have to register and provide an address; I wonder if they deliver to hotels too).
Drinks are like everywhere else. Sodas and flavor water are widespread. Beer is a national sport, having many local brands. There are 2 or 3 locally made liquors: “Tala”, which will be found only at homes on special occasions, “Tejj”, a sweet honey wine that is found in most traditional restaurants, and “Araki” the killer of all with more than 50% of alcohol! We can’t go without mentioning the juices served in most of fruit stores. They are mostly made of your fruit choice, sugar and water (you can require yours to be made with bottled water and pay for it); the offer includes mango, papaya, banana, pineapple, guava, avocado and others. Prices go from 15-25 ETB normally.
And finally, the queen of the after-meals: coffee! The legend says that the grain was first discovered in Ethiopia by a shepherd named Kaleab, who saw his goats extremely excited after they accidentally ate some coffee beans. It did not take long until few monks from the area (Kaffa, in southwest Ethiopia) found out how to toast it, grind it and boil it in the way we know today. Honoring the region, the seed was called coffee (ironically “bu’nna” in Amharic) and it is an essential component in the life on every given Ethiopian. The ceremony includes the washing, roasting, grinding, boiling and serving along with pop-corns, like in the movies!… Maybe for the amount of time it takes to make it? 😉 If lucky, expect a minimum of half an hour to have a coffee ready, which, needless to say, is much tastier than anywhere else in the world where it comes packaged. They would define its quality by the region of origin and the round that is being served: first, second or third (from the thickest to the lightest). Ethiopians do coffee ceremony up to 3 times a day: morning, afternoon at even at night. Who sleeps after that?! 🙂 🙂