Ethiopians don't use cutlery, preferring to eat with their right hands. Meals usually begin with hand washing: a decorated metal or earthenware jug is brought to the table and a child or adult will then pour water over guests' outstretched hands into a small basin.

Ethiopia's national dish is wot, a spicy stew with many varieties. Wot can be made of meat, fish or vegetables, although chicken and beef are the most common bases. The base is cooked with onions and red peppers in a spicy, curry-like sauce or berebere, which contains garlic, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, fennel seed and coriander. A similar yet milder meat stew is alicha, which is flavoured with onions and ginger instead of berebere. Before wot, Ethiopians sometimes also eat a bland appetizer of curds and whey.

Wot is served on injera a large, bread made from teff flour that has been fermented as dough for several days. A server spoons different types of wot onto one injera. Diners eat communally, tearing off pieces of the bread and using them to scoop the stew. Only the right hand is used for eating.

Pork is forbidden for Ethiopian Christians, Muslims and Jews. Because there are so many fasting days in the year, Ethiopia has a well-developed vegetarian cuisine, largely based on beans. While Ethiopians love butter and oily foods, they eat very few sweets. The exception is honey, which is often served as a dessert.

When guests arrive, the host offers tea or coffee, perhaps served with popcorn, which is a popular snack.

  Yesiga Alich'a (Spicy Beef Stew)

480 ml red onions
720 ml water
90 g beef with bones
480 ml butter
1/2 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp ginger
2 green chili peppers
salt to taste
1/2 tsp tumeric


In a deep frying pan, chop and cook the onions at medium heat without any oil. Take care they don't burn. Before the onions brown, add 480 of the water. Cut the beef into small pieces and add it to the onion mixture, bones included. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the butter and garlic and stir until the butter has melted. Add the ginger, salt and tumeric. Seed and slice the chili peppers and add them with the remaining 240ml of water. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and serve with injera or bread.

  Did you know?
Ethiopians have many legends concerning the discovery of coffee. One story is that a goatherd noticed his goats were prancing around excitedly after chewing certain berries. The goatherd tried the berries and felt very stimulated. Not until the 14th century did people begin to roast and brew coffee beans: before that, the plant was eaten.