Ethiopian Orthodox Christians ‘fast’, meaning they eat vegan, every Wednesday and Friday. There are also two 40+ day fasts and a couple of 2 weeks fasts throughout the year, amounting to 180 days total a year of eating vegan. The variety of vegan cuisine is much greater during the longer fasting periods than it is every Wednesday and Friday.
Shiro is the quintessential fasting dish, although it’s sometimes made with Ethiopian butter (shiro be kibbeh) or with beef (Bozena Shiro). This just means that you can find it anywhere, at any time, whether Ethiopians are eating meat or not. Although be warned—quality ranges broadly!
Shiro powder is generally made once a year in enormous batches to last a family the whole year. It’s made from roasted ground chickpeas, split peas and berbere spice. Proportions of ingredients vary at each place that it’s made, which is why quality and taste differ between each household or restaurant. To prepare a portion of shiro, onions are first simmered with vegetable oil or butter, then with a cup or two of water, depending on how thick the shiro will be. Next, shiro powder is added and cooked until the mixture becomes thick. Often, whole cloves of garlic are added and cooked until soft. The mixture is served in a clay pot and poured over a healthy portion of injera.
And of course, Shiro is eaten with your hands! Check out our video tutorial on Youtube!
Beyaynetu is a total veggie delight. This assortment of everything vegan on one mesmerizing plate is colorful, delicious and satisfying for any tastes. The dish is usually served with mild spiciness and a stuffed karia chili pepper to add some heat!
Beyaynetu will almost always come with shiro, misir wot (lentil stew) and a variety of veggies:
- Alicha: split yellow peas with onion, garlic, ginger and turmeric.
- Atkilt Wot: curried veggies – mainly potatoes, carrots and onions.
- Atkilt Salata: boiled potatoes, beets and carrots.
- Azifa: a cold green lentil salad spiced with Senafich (mustard).
- Fasolia: green beans often sautéed with carrots.
- Gomen: chopped and sautéed collard greens.
- Misir Wot: split lentils with onion garlic and berbere – sometimes spicy.
- Timatim Salata: cubes of tomato, onion, and hot pepper with lime juice.
Every dish found on the beyaynetu is made in big batches day-of, except for fresh salads, which are made throughout the day.
In the case of beyaynetu, unlike with other communal dishes, people are happily encouraged to reach across and eat from any side of the plate—wherever your favorite bit might be.
Want more of a certain thing? Just ask and they’ll bring it!
On fasting days and in the country side, misir and alicha are usually available to order on their own.
Firfir is injera with injera. That’s right. It’s for the die-hard injera lovers only! It can be eaten any time of the day – breakfast, lunch and dinner – but is most commonly found for breakfast.
Onion, berbere and oil (or butter on non-fasting days) are sautéed in water and, once boiling, injera is thrown in the mix. Rolls of injera are sliced about two inches thick and stir fried with tomatoes and berbere.
Suf is the liquid made from safflower seeds which is usually made during the long fasting periods. Suf is poured over rolls of injera, sometimes mixed with tomato, onion and hot pepper.
– Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, Ethiopia, CNN