News

THERE’S A LOT HAPPENING in the world of Ethiopian cuisine. So from time to time, when I come across something interesting, I’ll add a short news squib to the top of this page with links to more information around the web. I welcome suggestions for new items.

  

JULY 21, 2017. Ethiopian food buffs living in Europe may find themselves short of berbere and mitmita if the EU and Ethiopia can’t resolve a dispute affecting the importing of the pepper-based spices.

Earlier this year, Germany banned the import of pepper powders worth nearly $10 million to the Ethiopian economy when testing found it to have too high a level of aflatoxins and ochratoxins, harmful molds that grow in soil. The peppers were banned last year in the U.K. when testing found the levels of the toxins to be too high.

In Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Spice, Aromatic and Herbs Growers and Processors Association (ESAHGPA) has been working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and Ethiopian diplomats in Europe to resolve the situation, measuring the levels of the toxins in Ethiopia before exporting any pepper powder.

Million Bogale, chairman of the board of ESAHGPA, told an Ethiopian English-language newspaper that farmers and traders will sometimes put water on peppers to increase the weight, and this causes the toxins to form before they’re dried and ground into berbere. He said the government is now working with small farmers to change the way they harvest their peppers.

Here’s a news report, in Amharic, about the situation.

 

DEC. 21, 2016. One of Ethiopia’s most famous chefs died earlier this month, reportedly in his kitchen just after completing a day’s work.

chaneface

Chanyalew Mekonnen, well known in Ethiopia, gained international fame in 2015 when a reporter on NPR did a story about him. Chef Chane, as he was called, liked to mingle among the guests at his restaurant and would serve them whatever he had chosen to cook that day. So he became known as the Ethiopian Soup Nazi, named after a famously abusive character on TV’s Seinfeld.

Customers at his restaurant claimed that he would scold his employees if they didn’t place the injera on the plate properly, and when his landlord raised his rent, he just moved to a new location, where customers would always find him. A few years ago, urban renewal chased him out of his restaurant, so he found someplace new to prepare his food.

A note on an Ethiopian news Facebook page reported his death, and some readers share memories and tributes. One writer said he took comfort in the chef’s advice and counsel, and another said he had “the soul of a good man.” One observer said that he led his life as a big man. Chane even claimed to have once been a chef in the palace of Haile Selassie, Ethiopia’s last emperor.

Chef Chane in his kitchen.

Chef Chane in his kitchen.

 

Jan. 30, 2016. A newly published Ethiopian cookbook does more than just help you to prepare a meal: It teaches you all about how healthy your meal will be.

Getty Ambau calls his book Ethiopian Foods and Drinks, and along with more than a dozen recipes for the most popular Ethiopian dishes – as well as injera, t’ej and t’alla – Getty has chapters on teff, the many spices used in the cuisine, and “why Ethiopian food is healthy.”

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Getty dedicates his book “to the generations of Ethiopian women who created the many wonderful foods and drinks we enjoy today.” An Ethiopian woman once informed him that a good cook “can make as many as 750 or more dishes,” an accomplishment achieved through the use of the cuisine’s myriad spices.

“The Ethiopian woman combines many different spices to creates dishes as distinctly different from each other as beef stroganoff is from Peking pork chops,” Getty writes. “She also uses food preparation techniques such as aging, smoking and drying to bring out distinct aromas and flavors in foods, and the dishes they prepare from those ingredients are often succulent, zesty and healthy.”

Devoutly religious Ethiopians fast for more than 200 days a year, he notes, which means that you only eat late in the day, and then only vegetarian dishes. Ethiopians rarely eat sweets, and teff, the grain used to make injera, is high in protein, high in amino acids, and gluten free (although in America, Ethiopian restaurants mix teff with other flours, like wheat or barley, when they make injera). Much of the cuisine is also high in fiber, which is good for the gastrointestinal track.

Getty was born in Ethiopia and came to the U.S. to attend Yale, where he studied molecular biophysics, biochemistry and economics. He later earned a business degree and spent his career as a research chemist and businessman, and he’s the author of a series of books that tell stories about Desta, a 7-year-old Ethiopian boy, and his father, Abraham. Another of his books, The Four Pillars, offers advice on how to live a healthier culinary lifestyle by making “a conscious effort to love and care for yourself.” The “four pillars” of his title are vitamins, minerals, herbs and phytonutrients (chemicals that help protect plants from disease).

 

DEC. 6, 2015. A pair of entrepreneurs – one Ethiopian, one American – working together in Addis Ababa have created a new twist on a popular Ethiopian food, and they hope to bring it to market soon in the United States.

The company – and their crunchy snack – is called Dirkosh. That’s the Amharic word for sun-dried pieces of injera. But with the help of Ethiopian family members, Alula Kibrom and Valerie Bowden have developed an oven-baked injera chip that has no oil, preservatives, animal products, chemicals or gluten.

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Just like traditional Ethiopian injera, the company makes its dirkosh with pure teff, a gluten-free grain. And it will come in three flavors: original (i.e., plain), shiro (flavored with the spicy chick pea powder), and a version that will use either berbere or mitmita, the two pepper powders common in Ethiopian cooking.

Valerie and Alula will produce Dirkosh in Ethiopia, which allows the company to buy their teff from local women, employ disabled people in their community, and hopefully give a share of their profits to an organization that feeds the needy.

But Valerie says that “we don’t want Dirkosh to be another ‘pity product.’ Once we’re finished applying for grants, we will focus on telling others less about what we’re doing here. We want Dirkosh to change people’s perceptions of Ethiopia. That’s why we plan to put a cool or interesting fact about the country on each package. We hope to inspire a new way of seeing Ethiopia, and perhaps even show the world what a great tourist destination it can be.”

Alula and Valerie are trying to raise $4,795 through a Go Fund Me campaign, and they’re more than half way to their goal. They’re also applying for grants, hoping to launch production in 2016 and begin exporting internationally no later than 2017. Now they need to rent a manufacturing facility and find a company that can package their product to meet international standards.

valeriealula

In the meantime, to promote their enterprise, they’ve created a Twitter account, a Facebook page and a website that explains their product and their company. They also have a YouTube channel that features a video in which they talk about their product and their goals.

When they’re ready to export, Valerie says, they’ll begin sales at health food co-ops and smaller chains, hoping to get a spot on the shelf at Whole Foods Market some day. Alula is a computer programmer in Ethiopia, and Valerie fell in love with the country in 2010, when she went there to spend three months volunteering for a program that helps orphans. A few years later, she spent seven months backpacking through South Africa – you can download her book, Backpacking Africa for Beginners – and after visiting Ethiopia again, decide that “this is where I want to be.” She moved there two years ago.

 

OCT. 19, 2015. A pioneering young American restaurateur, who was also a member of the Ethiopian royal family, died on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, four days after sustaining injuries in an automobile accident on a freeway in San Diego, where he lived and worked. He was 29 years old.

Teferi Alexey Antohin – whose friends called him Alex – was a great-great-grandson of Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia. Born in Virginia, he grew up in Alaska and had attended the University of Fairbanks, where his father, a native of Russia, taught in the theater department. His mother is Aster (Esther) Fikre-Sellassie, who was born in 1960 and who, as a child, knew her great-grandfather the emperor, who died in 1975.

antohinAfter Antohin graduated in 2007, he decided that he wanted to bring his mother’s culture to his home state. So he opened Alaska’s first and so far only Ethiopian restaurant, Tekul, naming it for a type of thatched-roof hut found in Ethiopia. To house his restaurant, he built a yurt, an Alaskan native dwelling that’s similar to a tekul.

After two months in business, Antohin closed his restaurant for the rough Alaskan winter, and when the weight of the snow collapsed its roof, he decided not to reopen. He later moved to San Diego, where he was a teacher at Innovations Academy.

When we talked in 2008, Antohin told me that he would have Ethiopian food at home about once a week – whenever he requested that his mother make it for the family. He had no Ethiopian community growing up, just his mother and some relatives who occasionally visited. And while he did live in Russia for two years during childhood, he gravitated toward the Ethiopian side of his ancestry when he became an adult. He spent several months after graduation in Ethiopia teaching at a primary school.

“I don’t know why I leaned more toward my Ethiopian background than my Russian,” he said. “I have a stronger sense of wanting to help out Ethiopia. It’s a very demoralized and tough state. Most Ethiopians’ lives have been very hard. I feel I have a duty to help out because it’s half of my heritage.”

 

JUNE 17, 2015. A prolific children’s book author has published a new tale that introduces her young readers to the joys of friendship, diversity, acceptance – and Ethiopian cuisine.

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Nancy Hahn is writing a 12-book series of stories with her character Eshe, the Ethiopian elephant, and one of them is Eshe’s Ethiopian Cooking Party (2015), a brightly illustrated 33-page yarn that includes recipes for six dishes prepared by Eshe and her friends Purple Frog, Pink Dolphin, Blue Monkey, White Tiger, Yellow Snake, Bongo, and Banana Frog.

“I discovered Ethiopian children never had their own ‘prime time’ character,” Hahn says. “I created Eshe as a tribute to them, and when I worked with the Ethiopian Embassy, they called Eshe ‘The Ethiopian Mickey Mouse.’ It is still a mission of mine to get it directly to Ethiopian children.”

The first few Eshe books introduced the character and her friends through various activities and adventures. Then, Hahn turned to cuisine.

”I got to know an Ethiopian chef, Marcus Samuelsson, and his wife, Mya, and I thought of bringing food into the series,” Hahn says. “The food was an outgrowth of how I immerse into the life and culture of the character, but I am fond of Ethiopian food and have mastered some of the dishes.”

Dolphin's doro wot

Dolphin’s doro wot

Hahn weaves tales of cooking into the story itself, and at the end of the book, she includes the recipes in a traditional format, with a list of ingredients and the steps for preparing each dish. Eshe’s dinner party features doro wot, siga wot, vegetable alicha, injera, ayib, dabo kolo and a Sheba salad (which is more or less a diaspora invention for Ethiopian restaurants around the world).

Needless to say, with such eager but amateur cooks, things get a bit messy. Purple Frog uses too much black pepper in his ayib (cheese) and it makes him sneeze. Pink Dolphin’s doro wot turns out to be “super hot” from too much berbere (“Yikes! More water!”) But Blue Monkey’s siga wot “is done just right,” so he “sings to the pan, and it drips all over him.” Actually, he makes ye’beg wot, or lamb stew: Siga wot usually refers to beef stew. To make it more convenient for her readers, Hahn substitutes cayenne pepper and paprika for berbere in her list of ingredients.

The Eshe books are available only in electronic formats like Kindle and iBook, and Hahn says there are no plans to publish a printed version. But she’s created a video in which she reads the book and flips the pages.

 

JAN. 21, 2015. The newest Ethiopian cookbook on the market takes a slightly different approach. Kittee Berns is a vegan who loves the cuisine, so she’s adapted some of the recipes that use meat in Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking.

Her recipes for vegetable dishes are just like any other, but she uses spiced oil rather than niter kibe (spiced butter) in her “meat” dishes, which substitute soy for animal proteins. For ayib, the Ethiopian cheese, she uses soy milk instead of buttermilk, and for the delicious beef dish bozena shiro, she substitutes soy protein.

tefflovenews

The book has dozens of recipes, some for rarely seen dishes like daata (a sort of Ethiopian hot pepper chutney), bamya (okra) and ersho (sourdough starter for injera). Numerous rich color photos illustrate her dishes, and for each recipe, she includes a calorie and nutrition count.

Berns became a vegan in her 20s, before she had even tasted Ethiopian food, and over the years, it came to be one of her favorite international cuisines. She eventually decided to write about it, and a few years ago, she published Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food, a quirky ‘zine with some of her favorite Ethiopian recipes. Her new book is bigger and glossier.

“Since Ethiopian cooking is such an oral tradition,” Berns says, “there seems to be a lot of confusion and mystery about cooking it, even among Ethiopians. My friend Hirut knows the basics, but for some of my questions, she needed to get in touch with her sister in Ethiopia. I’ve also become friends with a vegan activist from Addis, and he helped me categorize most of the recipes and gave me a few ideas for basic things.”

She began cooking the cuisine decades ago, when she lived in the Washington, D.C., area, and she continued after moving to New Orleans. She lived there when Hurricane Katrina hit, and she recalls: “The day before the evacuation was mandated, I was cooking up a storm and had so much food that I made my friends come and take it away, so lots of folks actually evacuated with Ethiopian.”

 

NOV. 26, 2014. A newly opened restaurant on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, has redefined the concept of “airplane food.”

Gutema Guta, a young Ethiopian entrepreneur, has bought a retired Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 jet and turned it into a restaurant that serves Ethiopian and European cuisine. It’s located in the community of Burayu, about seven miles from Addis, and can seat up to 100 people. In remodeling the airplane for its new use, Gutema installed new seats and a new bathroom. He converted the cockpit into a DJ booth.

airplanefood

CCTV, a Kenya-based television network, visited the restaurant and talked with Gutema about his enterprise. For some of the people who dine there, the report says, it will be their first time inside an airplane.

Pictured here is the airplane, with its elegant entrance, and a look inside, with Gutema, seated on the right, sharing a meal of kitfo and tej with a reporter from CCTV. You can click the image to get a closer look.

Gutema’s restaurant isn’t the first of its kind, though. London Café, on Addis Ababa’s famous Bole Road, not far from the airport, is also an airplane converted into a restaurant, although the plane’s fuselage is attached to a building and juts out onto the sidewalk. Gutama has mounted the wheels of his airplane on cement slabs, and his restaurant is free standing.

 

OCT. 21, 2014. Not everyone who lives in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, can cook Ethiopian food. But soon there will be a way for non-Ethiopians in the city to learn how to prepare the cuisine while empowering Ethiopian women.

Kitchenpowers connects Ethiopian cooks with foreigners who want to learn how they do it. The enterprise, which will launch soon, “allows the encounter between experienced female Ethiopian cooks and expats who are looking for private or group Ethiopian cooking classes,” according to the group’s website. The women conduct the lessons in their clients’ homes.

kitchenpowers

The core team of organizers has three members, all 26 years old and with degrees in economics: Anna Laura Tosolini, from Italy, the only one of the three now living in Ethiopia; Nicolás Rosemberg from Argentina; and Bettina Groß, from Germany. In addition to its website, Kitchenpowers has produced a short video in which Rosemberg talks about how it works and what it hopes to achieve.

The company will also allow people to order Ethiopian food online for home delivery from the cooks of Kitchenpowers and will connect Addis’ international residents with Ethiopian women who want to learn how to cook the cuisine of other cultures.

“We are starting with a small pilot of three women in Addis Ababa now,” Groß said, “and we are selected a group of expats working in international organizations to participate and give us feedback. It will be a very low-key pilot to observe and learn. We want to learn if this model would be sustainable, and we want to better understand the needs of the two parties before scaling the platform.”

The group hopes to expand in Ethiopia next year and then to do the same thing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Lusaka, Zambia, in 2016. The group welcomes volunteers in Addis Ababa who want to help.

 

OCT. 3, 2014. Two young Ethiopian computer programmers have created an app that allows users to guide them through their efforts to cook Ethiopian food at home. The free app is available for iPhone and Android.

Nathnael Gossaye and Melikte Paulos released the app, called Gursha, in June 2014. It has sections for appetizers, beef dishes, chicken dishes, lamb dishes and, of course, vegetarian dishes. Illustrated with photographs of the finished dishes, each of the 16 recipes features an overview, a list of ingredients and a step-by-step preparation. The offerings include awaze tibs, ayib, azifa, kitfo, doro wot, kik alicha, and even such breakfast dishes as kinche and chechebsa.

gursha3

The app allows users to access its recipes offline. But if you’re online, you can use a function that allows you to locate traditional Ethiopian restaurants on a map. Just one catch: The restaurants, like the developers, are in Ethiopia. The text of the app is in English, with an Amharic version in the works.

The name of the app is an Amharic word that means “mouthful.” It also refers to a ritual sometimes performed at an Ethiopian meal where one person places food into the mouth of another, and then the other returns the favor. Performing gursha accentuates the shared nature of an Ethiopian meal. Even the Simpsons did gursha when Marge took the kids to an Ethiopian restaurant.

 

MAY 30, 2014. An Ethiopian-American businessman has created a company that helps women in Ethiopia develop a livelihood by doing what so many of them do best. Qmem Quality Ethiopian Spices imports its products from Ethiopia, packages them for retail sale, and then shares the profits with the women in Ethiopia who made them.

qmem

Stefanos Ghebrehawariat, the company’s founder, says he turned to his mother, “the subject matter expert,” to help create Qmem, which is the Amharic word for “spice.” He recruited two women in Addis Ababa, the company’s Ethiopian home base, who were highly regarded for their culinary skills, and from Addis, they make the spices based on family recipes.

The company’s higher goal is to help some Ethiopian women out of poverty.

“Profit sharing is just the start,” Stefanos says. “We strive to provide meaningful occupation and consistent income by hiring our employees on monthly salary. We offer above-market compensation and benefits that include on-the-job rotation and cross training so that the employee can grow and develop, as well as education and support to meet needs for child care, health and hygiene, so that the employees can take advantage of their training.”

Qmem sells its spices – berbere, mitmita and shiro for now – through a website and in some Ethiopian market in the Washington, D.C., area. The website offers a few recipes to help put the spices to good use, and the company has a Facebook page as well.

 

MAY 23, 2014. An Ethiopian-American entrepreneur has created a honey wine that he hopes will bring the delectable drink to people who hadn’t considered mead as an alternative to traditional grape wines.

beedvinebottle

Ayele Solomon’s Bee d’Vine call itself honey wine, not t’ej, but it’s still very Ethiopian. The wine’s label subtly incorporates elements of ancient Ethiopian culture as a nod to t’ej, and Ayele himself was born in Ethiopia. His family moved to the U.S. when he was a child.

The company has also created a charity to help Ethiopian beekeepers convert from inefficient old-style hives – which hang precariously from trees – to modern hives that produce seven to 10 times more honey. For every case of wine sold, Bee d’Vine will contribute $4 to the charity. Bee d’Vine sells its wine nationwide through its website.

Located in northern California, the company buys local honey from beehives placed in organic fields and blends it with on-site spring water. This is all part of a commitment to sustainability, Ayele says. The wine comes in two varieties: brut (dry) and demi-sec (semi-sweet).

To teach people about honey wine, Ayele has written an illustrated book, The Celebrated Story of Honey Wine, that’s free for download at the company’s website. You can also order a printed copy of the book, which pays homage to t’ej, as well as honey wine in general, tracing its history back for thousands of years.

 

APRIL 16, 2014. A new t’ej on the market has roots in an unusual place: Lost Tribes has just launched its “sparkling honey brew,” which traces its origins back to the Beta Israel – that is, the Jews of Ethiopia, who believe they’re descendants of Dan, one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel, and most of whom have emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel in the past 25 years.

losttribestej

Harry Rozenberg and his business partners created their company in 2009, and a few years ago, they made a batch of t’ej to test their product. In the time since, they’ve perfected their fermentation method to ensure consistency. The company has even bought a 10-acre farm in Israel that will host sustainable ecological development and a brewery to help the Ethiopians there preserve their t’ej-making traditions.

Lost Tribes uses gesho to flavor its t’ej, and the recipe comes to them from an Ethiopian Jew living in the West Bank. The company gives a percentage of its earnings back to the community in Israel. Their t’ej is kosher, and an ad for it asks: “Who says you can’t drink beer on Pesach” (Passover)?

In fact, the bottle for the wine calls itself a “sparkling honey brew” right below the word t’ej because it’s “carbonated and bubbly,” Rozenberg says.

The company now sells its t’ej in bars around New York City, including such well-known places as Dive Bar (Upper West Side) and The Ginger Man (Midtown East). Rozenberg says they also have orders from all around the United States and Canada. And because the company has a license that allows it to sell both wholesale and retail, customers can order t’ej for free home delivery in the New York City area (minimum order: one case). Lost Tribes also has a Facebook page and a Twitter page for people who want to keep up or keep in touch.

 

MARCH 7, 2014. If you’re looking for a good place to eat in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, don’t just take your chances. Take the time to call Addis Eats, a company that offers tours of restaurants in the city – and not just the ones you’ll find in the guide books.

addisfood

Eliza Richman and Xavier Curtis launched Addis Eats in 2013 as a way to pursue their passion for Ethiopian cuisine. Both grew up in Washington, D.C., and Richman learned to love Ethiopian food under the guidance of her childhood Ethiopian nanny.

“We take guests off the beaten path to local spots they wouldn’t find on their own,” Richman says, “restaurants hidden down alleys where old ladies cook up authentic traditional food – places that seat as few as 10 people, and to well-known local spots where you have to fight for a table. All the while, we tell the story behind the food and the traditions involved in cooking each dish.”

At each stop, guests sample the food, tour the kitchen to see how it’s made, and talk with the people who make it. A tour costs $55 per person and covers all of the food you eat, plus two beers and unlimited non-alcoholic beverages. You’ll visit three restaurants, a traditional buna bet (coffee house) and a juice bar, all in about four hours. The company offers group discounts depending on the size of the group.

Richman, who has a degree in environmental studies from the University of Wisconsin, worked for two years at a wildlife conservation agency in Ethiopia, but now she runs Addis Eats full time. Curtis, who has a degree in political science and environmental studies from the university, started Yaya Girls, an agency near Addis “working to empower Ethiopian girls and young women through the sport of running,” teaching them English, job skills and more, the group’s website says.

 

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NOV. 1, 2013. The newest Ethiopian cookbook on the market is more than 90 years in the making, although for now, you need to be able to read Amharic to experience the pleasures of its recipes.

Yemuya Quncho, by 94-year-old Konjit Zewge Hailu, has an unusual history. The book first appeared in Addis Ababa in 2000 in an edition, still in print, published by the French Center for Ethiopian Studies. It has more than 100 recipes, all in Amharic, along with a foreword in French and a short introduction in French by Berhanu Abebe. The book has no illustrations apart from the color cover.

But now the author’s son and daughter, who have lived in America for decades, have edited the book and published it in a spiral-bound 158-page paperback edition that’s lush with color photographs accompanying many of the recipes. You can buy the book at a website they’ve created, and you can watch an interview with the author. The siblings are now working on an English translation of the book. The book’s full Amharic title, by the way, is Yemuya Quncho: Yehagar Bahel Megeb Asrare, which means “Top of the Profession: Preparation of Culture Foods.”

 

peppersauce

FEB. 5, 2013. There’s a new company bringing some Ethiopian spice products to market, and a portion of its profits will go toward helping teach modern agricultural techniques in Ethiopia. Small Small will soon offer two items for sale: a berbere spice blend, and an awaze-inspired Red Pepper Sauce. The nascent company is currently raising capital through a website where, if you make a donation, you get one or both of the products as a thank-you, depending upon how much you donate. When Small Small expands, it will sell its products in commercial outlets, starting in the Washington, D.C., area. The company also has produced a short video to show people its products, which may eventually include more Ethiopian items.

George Roche founded the company after a trip to Africa in 2012, and he developed his idea by attending the Founder Institute in Washington. The name of the company comes from a Liberian idiom: Rather than telling someone to use “a little” of something, Liberians will use “a small small amount,” explains Roche. He says his enterprise has received U.S. certification as a benefit corporation, which requires that the company do some social good. His trip to Liberia inspired his enterprise, and he’d like to help the people of that country some day as well if he can find a way.

 

JAN. 26, 2013. Addis Ababa has plenty of food vendors who offer traditional and non-Ethiopian cuisine. But for the savvy taxi driver in the Ethiopian capital, Humna Besso is the place to go for some nutritious refreshment between fares.

humnabesso1

The enterprise of Daniel Tassew, who works full time as a medical lab technician, Humna Besso is a minibus converted into a besso shake cart that parks at Bole Delday, a busy taxi stop in Addis. Daniel tends the portable potable business when he can and hires others to work the rest of the day. It’s popular with taxi drivers, but of course, it welcomes all customers.

Besso is roasted barley flour, and Daniel makes his besso shakes by mixing the flour with water and a touch of sugar – although you can use honey for a more natural sweetness. In fact, Daniel adds honey to the mix to meet the customer’s specifications. He serves about 60 customers a day.

“While the other food vendors at the taxi stop under the bridge sell mostly greasy, fatty, starchy food stuffs,” Mireille De Villiers wrote in Addis Fortune, “Daniel has identified the gap in the market for a healthy, filling snack. The result is a profitable business with the minimum of overhead costs.”

humnabesso2

A 500 milliliter glass of besso shake costs 5.5 birr (about 30 cents), and a takeout order is 6 birr (just a few American pennies more). Daniel says that if he used the minivan as a taxi, he might make a profit of 120 to 150 birr ($8) each day. Using it as a food cart earns him a minimum profit of 150, but on average, a profit of 200 to 250 birr ($14) a day.

Of course, it’s all a matter of scale: The average annual income in Ethiopia is about $1,100 a year, according to the CIA Fact Book. So if Humna Besso makes just its minimum profit of 150 birr a day, Daniel’s second job will earn his nation’s average annual income every six months.

And by the way, if you’d like to make your own besso shake at home, this video will show you how.

 

JAN. 11, 2013. An Ethiopian woman has received a patent for her formula for powdered t’alla – the traditional Ethiopian beer – and has won a grant of 150,000 birr (about $8,200) to develop her innovation and launch a company to market it.

telamix

The Amhara Television Network (ATV) did a report on Mulunesh Alene and her “easy” t’alla. The report, in Amharic, includes video showing a pitcher of the t’alla (pictured here) and groups of people socializing and enjoying it with traditional snacks.

Her product is a filtered tikur (black) t’alla, rather than a lighter nech (white) t’alla. She’s registered it with the food science department at Addis Ababa University, and she hopes it can become an export product to bring revenue into Ethiopia.

Zemen Bank of Ethiopia hosted the awards ceremony on Dec. 20 after 15 months of competition in four rounds that climaxed in Addis Ababa at the Entrepreneurs Talent Show, a program sponsored by the Ethiopian Television and Radio Network.

The ceremony took place at the Sheraton Addis, and Ethiopian television broadcast it. In all, 698 people competed, and 10 of them earned prizes of 150,000 birr. Mulunesh placed third in the competition. Another food-related award went to Ahmed Hassen for a machine that washes and processes coffee.

The prize money came from the World Bank’s private financial arm, the International Financial Corp. The winners also got 5,000-birr ($275) gift cards from Zemen Bank to open accounts there, and the bank will offer two days of financial training to help the winners.

Yegil Metetachin,
T’alla Letenachin!

(In other words: “Our own unique drink – t’alla for our health!”)

 

Shiro Wot

NOV. 3. 2012. The chickpea, a key ingredient in one of Ethiopia’s most beloved dishes, has become a boom crop in Ethiopia, Scientific American reports. In 2006, a team of researchers “identified favorable traits among more than 20,000 variations in the chickpea genetic code, allowing them to breed plants that mature more quickly and resist drought and disease,” Aishwarya Nukala writes in the magazine’s September 2012 issue. Using traditional crossbreeding methods, scientists created improved varieties of seed, and now they see the results: From March 2010 to March 2012, chickpea production increased by 15 percent, enough to expand the country’s export market as well as to meet domestic demand. Ethiopians use chickpea flour to make shiro, a spicy delicacy, and also for such dishes as kolo, a crunchy snack of roasted barley, and butecha, which is popular during fasting season.

AUG. 3, 2012. An Ethiopian woman has won a different kind of gold medal this week in London during the Olympics: Genet Gebre Mariam sizzled her way to the championship of the first Ethiopian Traditional Cuisine Contest, and she received her prize of £1,500 ($2,350 or €1,892) in front of some of Ethiopia’s Olympic athletes. The contest took place at the Ethiopian Embassy in London. Ten women and one man competed, with Genet winning for creating a contemporary version of siga tibs. The second- and third-place competitors won for dishes associated more with northern Ethiopian culture: hilbet, a paste made from beans and various spices; and tihlo, a porridge eaten with a spicy mix of niter kibe and berbere. The event was part of a wider Cultural Olympics conducted by the embassy to coincide with the international athletic competition. You can see pictures of the contest in this report, which will download as a PDF. And here’s a video of the festivities.

A London elementary school also got in on the culinary spirit of the Olympics by using authentic Ethiopian ingredients to create an Ethiopian-style “Chickpea Surprise” dish, part of a contest conducted by a teacher to introduce her students to world cultures. The kids even used teff to make injera.

JUNE 13, 2012. Beginning in July, Ethiopian Airlines will offer twice-weekly non-stop flights from Addis Ababa to Toronto, the company announced recently. This could mean an increase in Ethiopian food products available in Toronto’s Ethiopian restaurants and markets. In Washington, D.C., and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs, pure teff injera made in Ethiopia has become easier to find since Ethiopian Airlines began daily non-stop flights to Washington’s Dulles Airport in December 2010. Restaurants and markets in the D.C. metro area have also begun to offer qocho, a dish made from the enset plant, an important food source in many parts of Ethiopia.

JUNE 1, 2012. A study of 53 Ethiopian women who immigrated to Israel show that as their diet changed, so did their weight and body mass index. Researchers at Hebrew University found that the average BMI increased to 25 compared with a BMI of 19 when the women arrived in Israel from Ethiopia. They attribute this to a variety of factors, including the effect of the body’s “thrifty gene,” which takes advantage of food abundance when people move from a place of food scarcity. Preparing Ethiopian food takes time, and with busier lives, the women don’t cook their native cuisine as much. The women then move away from eating traditional Ethiopian foods, replacing them with fatty meats and sugary products rather than fruits and vegetables. The researchers also said the Israeli government needs to lower the price of teff, the grain used to make injera, the Ethiopian bread.

Hailu Tessema

APRIL 19, 2012. An Ethiopian businessman said this week that he’s received U.S. government approval to export his new line of frozen foods from Ethiopia to America. Hailu Tessema is the general manager of Mama Fresh Injera, a company that makes injera in Ethiopia and exports it around the world (it’s available in some shops in Washington, D.C., and its suburbs). The company also exports qocho. Now he’s planning to export frozen doro wot and some “traditional sauces,” with plans to add a line of “traditional fasting foods” – that is, Ethiopian vegetarian dishes – at some time in the future. Hailu said he’s also obtained the Ethiopian rights to “European-made injera baking machines that bake one piece of injera in one minute,” doubling the amount of injera he can make, he told The Reporter, an English-language newspaper for Ethiopians. He said he now exports about 9,000 pieces of injera a week and hopes to increase that to 15,000 to 20,000 a week. He’ll begin the export of the frozen food selections in the next few months.

APRIL 4, 2012. Chicago has a new Ethiopian restaurant, and it’s unique in the city. Lake Langano serves a large menu of Ethiopian entrées made by Tere, the owner, who comes from Ethiopia’s Wolaita culture. Her restaurant also offers a full menu of Chinese food, but that’s not the more important thing that makes it unique: Tere serves qocho, a vital food among Ethiopia’s southern cultures – the Gurage, Wolaita, Sidama, Dorze and many others. It’s made from the enset plant, and it’s imported from Ethiopia. Qocho is a traditional Ethiopian accompaniment for kitfo, the popular Gurage dish of raw ground beef. If you’re an Ethiopian food lover in Chicago, you owe yourself a taste of qocho at Lake Langano.

A bowl of daata

And while you’re there, try some daata, a rare (in America) Wolaita condiment. It’s a deep red hot sauce made with berbere, ginger, garlic, onions and other spices chosen by the chef. Daata complements a main course, especially at special occasions and feasts, and it’s used by numerous southern cultures, like the Kambatta and the Hadiya. It’s not on the menu, so you need to ask for it. Lake Langano has no website yet, and an online menu at another site only lists some of its Ethiopian dishes: For example, there’s also a full Ethiopian breakfast menu that you won’t find online. The place has a few seats, but mostly it’s takeout. The Chicago Reader took note of the place shortly after it opened. Lake Langano, 1023 W. Wilson Ave., (773) 272-3106.

MARCH 31, 2012. Iceland got its first Ethiopian restaurant with the opening of Minilik in the city of Fluðir in the summer of 2011, and it’s done so well that the owners have now opened a second place in Kopavogur. The restaurant chain even has its own Facebook page. The menu offers the full range of familiar dishes, and while there’s no t’ej yet, there is a free coffee ceremony on the weekends. By the way, the population of Fluðir is about 400, and the nearby municipality of Hrunamannahreppur has a population of about 800, undoubtedly making Fluðir the smallest city in the world outside of Ethiopia to have an Ethiopian restaurant.

Harry Kloman
University of Pittsburgh

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