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We’re two weeks into the Orthodox Christian Fasting season (when people eat vegan) and these days, it’s all about the shiro.

 

Our lovely guide, Genet, tells our guests all about shiro (the lighter orange stew) Our lovely guide, Genet, tells our guests all about shiro (the lighter orange stew)

 

While Ethiopian cuisine is highly acclaimed for its vegan dishes outside of Ethiopia, it is not so in Ethiopia. Most people only eat vegan on mandated fasting days and choose meat every other day of the week if they can afford it.

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fast (eat vegan) 180 days a year. Normally, they fast every Wednesday and Friday, although there are several longer fasting periods, including the 55-day fast before Easter and 40-day fast before Christmas.

 

Shiro being ladled onto injera (notice we did sneak a non-vegan order of kai wot). Shiro being ladled onto injera (notice we did sneak a non-vegan order of kai wot).

 

Shiro is the quintessential fasting dish. And the exception to this rule: people eat shiro even when they don’t have to.

Shiro powder is generally made once a year in enormous batches to last a family (or restaurant) the whole year. It’s made from roasted ground chickpeas, split peas and usually has berbere spice and dried garlic. Proportions of ingredients vary depending on whose making it, which is why quality and taste differs greatly between places.

 

Shiro Drying in the Sun Shiro Drying in the Sun

 

It can also be made with traditional butter (shiro be kibbeh) or with beef (bozena shiro) to richen the dish on non-fasting days. You can find shiro anywhere, at any time although quality ranges broadly. It is the country’s peasant food – cheap, filing and high in protein – but regardless of class, everyone loves shiro.

From the variety of dishes our guests taste on our food tour, shiro be kibbeh at the hole-in-the-wall we visit is the overwhelming favorite. So, join us! 

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