Ethiopian food sounds exotic, but it's easy to fall in love with the cuisine of this eastern African nation. Whether you're a strict vegan, a traditional vegetarian or an old-fashioned omnivore, as long as your palate is prepared for intense flavors, Ethiopian cookery has a dish for you.
The deep, red color and spicy heat found in most Ethiopian food comes from the nationally popular berbere spice blend. Usually made from dried chili peppers, garlic, fenugreek and warm spices such as cumin, ginger, black pepper, allspice and cloves, berbere spice is typically mixed with water or oil to make a paste before it is used in cooking. Wet or dry, it makes a flavorful spice rub for meats and fish.
Berbere is also the essential seasoning in Ethiopia's famous stews, curry-like mixtures known as wot or wat that are often flaming hot — an acquired taste for some! To dial back the lip-burning, if authentic heat of the berbere, we often will substitute mild California chili powder for half or even more of the spicier blend.
Making Ethiopian stew at home is easy and while the traditional accompaniment, a fermented bread known as injera that is made from a tiny, nutritious grain called teff, is a bit of a stretch for most home cooks, you can serve your wot with any mild carb such as rice, barley or toasted bread.