YOU CAN FIND PLENTY OF VIDEOS on the internet that teach you how to cook Ethiopian food. Some take you into the kitchens of Ethiopian restaurants for a one-shot lesson on how to make this or that dish, and some are homemade videos posted by ferenj (i.e. non-Ethiopians) who just love the cuisine.
But if you really want to learn how to cook Ethiopian food, you should take a look at some of the numerous Ethiopian (and Eritrean) cooking shows available on the web, many of them hosted by chefs from the two cultures.
There are, however, a few catches. First, a look is all you might be able to take: Very often the hosts of these shows speak in Amharic or Tigrinya. You may also have a hard time finding them because few have actual websites, and you have to dig around the web to find who’s posted the various episodes where. There are also some Ethiopian chefs who will teach you how to make non-Ethiopian dishes – again, in Amharic.
The word baltena in Amharic refers to household skills, including the skill of cooking. A number of Ethiopian food companies use this word in their names: Abet Baltena in California; Selam Baltena, Fasica Baltena and Abeba Baltena in Ethiopia; and one of my favorite places to shop for Ethiopian spices, Nazret Baltena in Falls Church, Va. (also called Nazret Cultural Foods). The word yagermoya can also refer to a woman’s cooking skills, although it literally means “profession of the country” (that is, culture). Amharic has several words or phrases used for kitchen: mad bet, wot bet or kushna. There’s also guada, which can mean a side room of a house used for preparation, and you’ll sometimes see cookbooks with that word in the title: for example, Ye’enat guada, or “mother’s kitchen,” a book that you can download as a PDF.
So now, as a public service – and, frankly, just for fun, because who doesn’t love to watch a cooking show – I’ve rounded up a lot of what’s out there, and the following squibs will offer links to videos that you can watch along with a little information (which is also hard to find) on each show and its host. I’ll include shows that present Ethiopian or Eritrean food and shows with Ethiopian and Eritrean chefs making foreign cuisines (often Italian).
♦ How To Cook Great Ethiopian Food. This British website is by far the most comprehensive Ethiopian cooking “show” on the internet, with more than 100 video recipes. The website even has a Facebook page. There are, however, a few challenges: The videos are short, with no host, and with no quantities for the ingredients. For that, you must read the text on the website as a complement to the videos. But between the two modes of communication, you can cook the many dishes presented by the site, which also has some longer cooking videos in Amharic. Use the Recipes link for the ingredients and preparation, then get a look at the dish using the Videos link. Unfortunately, you can’t see the printed recipe when you go to a video, and you can’t access the video when you go to a recipe.
♦ Titina’s Kitchen. If you like to watch a confident chef in her kitchen, then drop in on Tesfanesh – a.k.a. Titina – and her cooking show on the Israeli Ethiopian TV channel. She speaks in Amharic, so you may not understand a word, but she’s a warm hostess, and the food looks great when it’s all done and presented on a piece of injera. You can find her videos by clicking the above link or by going to the IETV Channel on YouTube and entering the search phrase “wonders of Ethiopian cuisine,” which brings up her videos. Each one has two recipes, among them shiro, dulet, kay wot, siga wot, doro wot, gomen and tikil gomen, with a new video added every few weeks (but sometimes more frequently).
♦ Qemem TV. For some nice videos and good cooking lessons in English, this website devoted to Eritrean cuisine should do the trick. Of course, Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine is essentially the same thing, and the name of the site means “spice TV” in Amharic and Tigrinya. You can watch chef Bsrat Mezghebe’s videos on her Vimeo site, or you can visit her blog for videos, recipes and information. Not all of the recipes have videos to accompany them, though.
♦ Habesha Flavor. From Harrisonburg, Va., comes the team of Mickey and Hammi – mother and daughter, I presume – who teach you how to make some basic and tasty Ethiopian dishes. They’ve only posted a few videos so far, and you can watch them on the duo’s YouTube channel.
♦ Kadi African Recipes. Can a West African chef cook East African food? Apparently so. Oumou Bah comes from Guinea, and her pan-African cooking website includes preparations for four Ethiopian dishes: berbere, injera, doro wot and tikil gomen.
♦ Giordana’s Kitchen. The American-based Ethiopian Broadcast Services has produced nine or 10 episodes of a program with the Ethiopian chef Giordana (or Jordana) preparing American recipes, in Amharic, like lasagna, pasta with mushrooms, pastries, meatballs and avocado chicken salad. She’s a lively and affable host, and she sometimes has guests to join her in discussion while she cooks. “With her easy approach to cooking,” the network’s website says, “she invites viewers to enjoy delicious everyday meals in fresh new ways using local and seasonal ingredients.”
Unfortunately, finding her videos is a bit difficult because EBS’ website is so poorly executed, and because you can spell her name two different ways. The best way to find them is to search at the site Ethiotube, which posts EBS videos. By searching Jordana and Giordana at the Ethiotube site, you can find most of them.
♦ Mimi’s Ethiopian Kitchen. In one of the homier little English-language shows on the internet, mother Mimi and her daughter Titila show you how to cook Ethiopian food. The pair’s YouTube site now has videos for four recipes: gomen, fosolia and a two-part presentation for misir wot. The videos are thorough and conversational.
♦ Chef Zel. Zelalem Seyoum is Ethiopian, and so are some of the dishes on his cooking show, which has a channel on YouTube and a Facebook page. He makes such Ethiopian dishes as doro wot and tibs, along with non-Ethiopian fare like fetuccini and seared Atlantic salmon. Zelalem lives in Toronto and specializes in African, French and Italian cuisine, as well as some Japanese and Chinese cooking.
♦ Addis Majet. The name of this ETV cooking program means “new food preparation,” although the international recipes presented in Amharic by chef Sham Mehamed are very familiar: On his show, which aired in 2008-09, he makes macaroni and cheese, kebabs and hummus, strawberry and carrot cake, beef sauté and a variety of other desserts.
♦ Nibret Aga. A Seattle-based chef, caterer and health guru, Nibret goes by the sobriquet Negusse (“Queen”) and cooks dishes across many traditions. Her Ethio-Eritrean-flavored cooking videos show how to prepare kita (Ethiopian pizza), flax seed sauce and pasta, and garlic sauce and pasta – the latter two inspired by the Italian influence in Eritrean culture.
♦ Addis Kitchen. The latest addition to the field is Chef Wondossen and his internet cooking show, which promises periodic episodes demonstrating how to make a variety of Ethiopian and Ethiopian-spiced dishes – in Amharic. In his first installment, he whips up pasta with spicy berbere sauce made from freshly chopped tomatoes.
♦ Nikedem Belu! This Tigrinya phrase means “help yourself,” as in, join us for a meal and help yourself to food. Hadeone Hade, a young Eritrean-American (her internet handle is Hade1Hade), hosts a YouTube channel promoting artists and musicians of Eritrean heritage, and she devotes a portion or her site to videos showing how to make some Eritrean dishes. So far, she’s posted videos on injera (called taita in Tigrinya), kulwa (the Tigrinya name for wot), and tesmi (Tigrinya for niter kibe).
♦ Endalk’s Kitchen. Endalkachew Zewde is a well-known Ethiopian chef who did a show for ETV (Arlington, Va.) in which he prepared both Ethiopian and foreign recipes. Unfortunately, the only cooking video of his available on the web is one for hamburgers. He’s also taught cooking classes in the U.S. and has just released his first DVD, although it’s in Amharic.
Chef Asmerom. Who said a cooking show can’t be funny? Of course, we’ll have to take the word of the internet viewers who have seen this Ethiopian chef’s video instructions for cooking shiro that aired on EriTV, but lots of people seem to think he’s hilarious. Decide for yourself – and keep your Amharic dictionary nearby: The “chef” is speaking Amharic with a Tigrinya accent.
Chef Chris. This enterprising young fellow might not have his own cooking show yet, but give him a few years to get through puberty. In the meantime, enjoy his lesson on how to make injera and doro wot, occasionally with improvised ingredients. His YouTube channel has cooking videos with dishes from Ghana, Liberia, Chad, Uganda, Syria and Korea. So maybe he does have his own cooking show after all.
From time to time, television news programs will visit Ethiopian restaurants in their cities and present videos that introduce the restaurant’s owner, who will then offer a concise cooking lesson. Here are a few places where you can find such videos.
♦ Enat. One of my favorite Ethiopian restaurants, Enat, in Alexandria, Va., was featured on a vegan website, where owner Abiy Bisrat shows people how to prepare fosolia, a dish made of green beans and carrots.
♦ Mesob. This popular restaurant in Montclair, N.J., does a great job of promoting itself with videos online. Co-owner Berekti Mengistu – her first name is an Amharic variation of “barak,” or “blessed” – has prepared several dishes for the program Global Kitchens: the delicious mushroom dish inguday tibs, the wholesome cabbage dish tikil gomen, and the succulent lamb dish lega tibs.
♦ Ethio-Cubano Restaurant. Owner Dawit Asmelash cooks some succulent ye’beg tibs – that’s lamb – at his unusual fusion restaurant in Sheffield, England.
♦ Selam. This restaurant, in San Jose, Calif., serves what it calls the Obama dish, named in honor of the president. A young Ethiopian-American woman who had the dish liked it so much that she decided to prepare it and share it. It’s ground beef and onions seasoned with berbere – what we otherwise call minchet abish.
♦ And finally, there’s the mysterious of hubuchbuch, a dish so bizarre that none of my Ethiopian friends know what it is or what the word means – perhaps because it seems to come from Eritrean culture. The video shows you how to make it, along with a side of pasta. The talkative chef, face unseen, speaks Tigrinya for about four minutes and then switches to English. I welcome any information about this enigmatic dish.
University of Pittsburgh