As an ancient civilization built on trade with other civilizations in the region at the time, Ethiopian foods have developed a rich array of dishes and cooking techniques using several traditional ingredients.
As such, Ethiopian food is full of delightful flavors that result from the mixture of numerous different spices and herbs, well-crafted over many generations to be not too spicy but very well-seasoned.
Here are some of the most important traditional ingredients, spices, and seasonings that play a central role in the making of an amazing Ethiopian dish.
Traditional Ingredients #1: Berbere
Berbere, which is a combination of chili pepper and several other spices, herbs, and ingredients including ginger, cardamom, garlic, fenugreek, and cinnamon, forms the backbone of flavor for many Ethiopian dishes.
If you want to make your own Berbere, you can find the recipe here.
Traditional Ingredients #2: Mitmita
Mitmita, smaller and hotter than Berbere, is an orange-red colored powdered seasoning mix that is composed of chili peppers, cloves, salt, cardamom seed, as well as spices such as ginger, cumin, and cinnamon. It is often used as a condiment to add some extra kick to meat dishes such as Tibs and Tere Siga, but it can also be added in the cooking process for the same reason.
Traditional Ingredients #3: Niter Kibbeh
Another essential ingredient in Ethiopian cuisine is Niter Kibbeh, a clarified butter similar to Indian ghee. Niter Kibbeh is made by infusing butter together with onions, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, fenugreek, cumin, and nutmeg. Because Niter Kibbeh contains butter, it is not added to dishes when it is fasting time. Other than that, it adds so much richness and flavor that it is widely used on several Ethiopian dishes especially Wots and meat dishes.
If you want to make your own Niter Kibbeh, you can find the recipe here.
Traditional Ingredients #4: Awaze
Awaze is a dark-red spice sauce made by blending berbere with water or oil, and sometimes a little bit of Ethiopian wine or whiskey. It goes surprisingly well with most meat dishes.
Traditional Ingredients #5: Da’ta
Da’ta is a thick pulverized chili topping that comes in red and green color varieties. It tastes like a blend of Ethiopian low-heat green chilis and green herbs and is considered one of the best seasonings and spices that make Ethiopian food so incredibly flavorful. It can also be used to spice up western food such as pasta.
Traditional Ingredients #6: Korarima
Korerima, which is false cardamom in Ethiopia, is a spice made from dried plant seeds and is widely used in Ethiopian cuisine. It is a crucial component of spice blends like Mitmita, Berbere, Awaze, and others. Even coffee in some regions of Ethiopia is flavored with it.
In Ethiopian herbal medicine, korarima seeds are also employed as herbal tonics, carminatives, and laxatives. Laxatives are employed to loosen stools and increase bowel movements as well as to treat and prevent constipation.