One of the best things about Ethiopian food is that no other cuisine in the world is quite like it. Traditional cooking here blends unique combinations of spices to create distinct flavours: some hot, some savoury. Spices are the key ingredients for many types of Ethiopian wat (a dish somewhere between a stew and a curry) that are eaten with flat, spongy bread called injera.
Ethiopian restaurants can be found the world over, but none compare with the food made in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s sprawling capital. Vegetables are locally sourced, and the meat typically comes from freshly killed animals. Nothing here is mass produced, and every dish is made fresh to order. Addis Ababa is the best place in the country to try Ethiopian food, and these are five of the top restaurants where you can dig into the local scene.
Oda Cultural Restaurant and Cafe
Inside the Oromo Cultural Center is the Oda Restaurant and Cafe, which you might recognise from Anthony Bourdain’s Ethiopia visit on No Reservations. The Oromo are one of the largest ethnic groups in eastern Africa, and the Center’s restaurant showcases the best of Oromo culture. The hall is furnished with pinewood-carved furniture and curtains made of traditional fabric. Injera made of tikur teff (a black grain about the size of a poppy seed considered to be more nutritious than the more refined white teff), spiced butter and beso (roasted and ground barley) are at the heart of Oromo cuisine. Chumbo is prepared with black teff baked thick and yoghurt, cheese, and spiced butter spilled on top so that it looks like cake. Buna qalaa (roasted coffee dipped in butter) is a cultural snack that gives coffee deeper flavours. The Oromo Cultural Center is near the National Stadium.
Puagmea African Restaurant
Addis Ababa is the diplomatic capital of the Africa, so every country on the landmass is represented here. To sample cuisine from all over the continent without travelling too far, head to Puagmea African Restaurant. Located near the Bole International Airport behind the DHGeda Tower, Puagmea is decked out with paintings, traditional chairs and the coffee ceremony décor typical to Ethiopia. Among the dishes on the menu are ugali (a staple of the Great Lakes region made of millet, corn or sorghum boiled into a sticky porridge) and nyama choma (a Kenyan dish of grilled bone-in lamb, chicken or Nile perch fish). Live music is also on the table with DJs on Thursday nights and jazz on Saturday evenings.
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