Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia
I will compare to Ethiopian food in the United States, so I won’t be starting from scratch here.
The good news is that the product is tastier in Ethiopia. But the other good news is that the U.S. version of the cuisine is fairly similar, and it really does give you a pretty good idea of at least mainstream restaurant cuisine in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopians really do eat a lot of injera, made out of teff. Firfir dishes, which use injera soaked in spices, are far more common in Ethiopian cuisine in Ethiopia than in the U.S. equivalent. Overall, the quality, subtlety, and diversity of injera is higher in Ethiopia, as you might expect.
Bozena Shiro is another staple, present in both countries but again far more common in Ethiopia.
Doro Wat — chicken in the red sauce — is the dish that improves the most in Ethiopia. The sauce is richer and more subtle, more in the direction of a Mexican mole than just a mere curry.
I had two meals in private homes, one in a well-to-do apartment in Addis, the other in a rural village. Neither overturned the basic impressions I have been receiving from the restaurant food.
I ate kitfo [raw beef] once and did not get sick or even feel queasy.
The fresh honey is much better in Ethiopia than what you might get in a restaurant in America. And they pop fresh popcorn rather frequently.
Especially outside of Addis Ababa, prices are very cheap. I stayed in the nicest hotel at the number one tourist site, namely Lalibela, with its underground, rock-hewn churches. A single course at breakfast cost about a dollar and was enough for a meal. Presumably some other prices are cheaper yet.
This is a wonderful country for vegetarians and vegans. I am told that for the Christian religiously observant, about one-third of all days specify an abstention from meat. So virtually all restaurants have a wide selection of vegetarian food and it is no worse than the meat dishes, perhaps better on average.
As for foreign cuisines, I had the best outcome with Indian food, perhaps because many of the spices and cooking techniques are similar. There are Sudanese and Yemeni restaurants in Addis, Italian food is plentiful (it’s not always exactly Italian, but Castelli’s is amazing), and the Chinese meal I had was decent but not sufficiently Chinese.
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