Ethiopian is my new food addiction. (Apparently I have a lot of these). Incidentally, in the interest of feeding this addiction, it helps that I can literally walk to 3 different Ethiopian restaurants from my house, and also an Ethiopian grocery store.
(They say it’s a progressive disease….)
If you’ve never had Ethiopian before, 1) Please immediately close this blog post and get yourself over to an Ethiopian restaurant. OR 2) Please start your indoctrination by making this recipe immediately. You will be so happy with this life choice.
Let’s discuss some Ethiopian cuisine background. Ethiopian food is typically various spicy stews/curries (called wats) made of different meats or legumes, that are served on top of a large circle of Ethiopian sourdough flat-bread called injera. Injera is critical to any authentic Ethiopian meal. It basically serves as both the “platter” for your meal as well as your utensil, because you don’t use spoons or forks when eating Ethiopian. You pick everything up with your right hand, preferably with a small amount of injera as a vehicle. Then at the end of your meal, everyone (or just me) dives in a eats the platter because that’s where all the soupy goodness from the wat ends up. Gah! It’s so good.I can’t express enough the importance of having injera for your Ethiopian meal, and therefore I feel somewhat guilty for not including a recipe here. The reason I didn’t make injera is simply because it takes serious level of commitment. (I.e. you need to acquire or make your own sourdough starter which I learned can take 5+ days to prepare).
So let’s just say the need for Shiro in my belly > my obsession with making all my own food from scratch. (And I was hosting a dinner party that was <5 days away when I started planning…)
Lest this situation also happen to you, here is what you can do:
1) You can do what I did and head over to your local Ethiopian grocery store and get some really fresh and amazing injera, or
2) I’d recommend calling up a local Ethiopian restaurant or two and asking if they sell injera. Most of the time they do, or they’ll direct you to where you can buy some. It’s definitely worth the effort.
Just whatever you do please don’t eat this with regular bread. That would just be depressing… So by now I feel a little guilty for advertising injera so heavily without discussing the actual recipe that I made right here. Ethiopian Shiro Wat.
Let’s be real… I want to make this all over again after writing this post and looking at these photos.
Shiro tastes surprisingly complex yet is surprisingly simple to prepare. You need to make sure to have some specialty ingredients on hand, but I swear that if you make this even the meat-eaters in your crew will be craving seconds of this (this literally happened at my party). So again, for anyone who is unfamiliar, Shiro is a staple vegetarian dish (actually it’s vegetarian AND gluten free!) in Ethiopian cuisine. It’s basically a stew or curry made from ground dried chickpeas and various spices. The chickpeas give the stew a beautiful texture and nutty flavor. It’s very smooth and spreadable, almost the consistency of a thickened pureed soup. Just mix and stir! Chickpea flour may not be at local grocery stores, but is easily found on amazon.com or even at Indian grocery stores. An alternate name is Besan flour, which is what I purchased.
The flavors that enhance the Shiro are the classic Ethiopian ingredients- Berbere spice (a chili powder-based spice blend), Niter Kibbeh (Ethiopian spiced clarified butter- critical ingredient IMHO), onions, tomatoes, and garlic. Getting these ingredients singing in the right combination is the art of this dish.. and I think I’ve done it excellent justice here (despite having zero qualifications to make Ethiopian food, aside from the fact that I am a very very picky eater).An aside- if anyone is at all interested- you can acquire Shiro Powder to make this dish as well. Shiro powder is different from chickpea flour/ besan. It is actually a mixture of chickpea flour, spices, and seasonings. It is a just-add-water type dish that is an even faster process to make. However, I cannot comment on its quality since I’ve never made Shiro that way before.
I’ve just made this recipe for Shiro, and it is my favorite food in the whole wide world.
Ethiopian Shiro Wat
Delicious!!!! I think I also have a few of these food addictions and we certainly need to sort that out and thank goondess it did not take 5 days!!! Loving this hands on delicious little recipe.
Ahh!! Thank you so much!
Looks fabulous! Injera is such an interesting bread, isn’t it? I don’t think I’d ever attempt it. I do make my own berbere and niter kibeh from scratch. They make the whole house smell good for days! I completely understand your addiction!
Wow good for you for doing some DIY Ethiopian preparation. I have to confess I got most of my specialty ingredients from the Ethiopian store near my house.. it does make the entire house smell so so good!
I recently fell in love with Ethiopian food. I have to admit, I have had it at least 10 times over the past two months. A few weeks ago, I made my own misir wot (lentils stew) and could not tell you how much I enjoyed it. I had a hard time finding berbere but then stumbled onto fassica.com which offers imported berbere for reasonable price. I am planning to buy Shiro soon and try out your recipe. Thank you so much for sharing.
Hi Barbara- Thanks so much for your comment! I LOVE misir wot- do you have a good recipe?? Hope you enjoy the shiro!
Hello, first, thank you for sharing Ethiopian recipes and increasing the knowledge and benefits. I am owner of http://www.fassica.com – where we offer authentic Ethiopian spice including Berbere, Shiro (seasoned & unseasoned), and more. Please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com if you have any questions or need ideas/recipe for more Ethiopian recipes.
Sounds amazing and I loved the dish. But having the butter makes this a Vegetarian but not Vegan dish.
I was going to leave the same comment! I’m going to try it with Earth Balance.
I don’t understand why you call this vegan… or is this Ethiopian butter vegan maybe?
hah, looking back at this post and facepalming myself. Fixing it now. Ethiopian butter is not vegan.
DELICIOUS so good i begged my parents to come all the way from Kitchener Ontario
Hi there! Love this recipe and was wondering if you have a recipe for injera using sourdough starter?
I actually have this in the works, but I haven’t perfected it yet! Stay tuned!
Ethiopian food is based on ancient traditions with very complex & sophisticated origins. The Berbere spice mix, which is one of the staple ingredients, has many variations some of which contain more than 20 ingredients and require several days to prepare properly.
Actual shiro powder should be used if at all possible, and it can be sourced easily enough online, as can fresh injera (with express shipping anywhere in the US). Shiro powder contains a number of ingredients which are difficult to source individually, some of which do not even have an English translations. Though most of these are only a fraction of a percent by weight their contribution & importance to the flavor is crucial! Quite often the “base” of chick pea powder (which is general lightly toasted) is augmented and balanced with several other legume powders including yellow split peas & fava beans.
I think nearly any Ethiopian woman would scoff at your short cooking times, although I am not entirely convinced that the traditionally lengthy simmering times are necessary for every dish.
However, shiro wat is one dish that never really seems to taste quite right, or have the right velvety consistency unless it is cooked for at least 30 minutes after adding the chick pea powder (in whatever form).
Interesting feedback, thanks for you expertise! Always learning 🙂
An NYT article by Samin Nesrat gives a snarky shout out to you. Admittedly she doesn’t name you but in the article she writes that she was “dismayed, if not surprised, to find that the top result was written by a white food blogger from San Diego, and a bunch of others were based on that.”
She sounds like a bitter cow…
Haha oh dang, I hadn’t seen this yet! Does it mean I’ve “made it” when I get NYT snark?? LOL
So I made the Shiro Wat following my first taste of this fabulous dish gifted to my family by a South Sudanese friend on Christmas Eve. I am not an adventurous cook by any means so this was a huge production for me … ordered spices, ground the chick peas into flour, prepared the nitre kibbeh … and my final shiro is nasty! It has an amazing aroma, looks beautifully smooth but the taste is so bitter. Not anything like the Christmas Eve dish I had delighted in. My friend who prepared the dish and I do not share enough common language for me to ask for help. If bitterness is a common problem, I would love some suggested remedies.
Hi Beth! So sorry it turned out so bitter for you. I’m not entirely sure why it would turn bitter, but a thought might be something to do with either the method you used for preparing the chick pea flour from scratch (I usually use pre-ground Besan flour) or possibly something with the particular spices you purchased? Sorry I can’t be of more help 🙁
I learned how to make this from a neighbor who moved here from Eritrea as an adult. She would supply me with spices and know how until I was finally doing it right, including injera. She taught me to chop the onions and tomato, not purée, but I imagine there are as many shiro recipes as there are cooks. Her shiro was more or less an instant food, without the oil. We would just sauté the onions and tomatoes in the butter, then add the powder and water. And whisk whisk whisk. I bet if you ask, one of your restaurants will sell you some starter for the injera!
That’s so wonderful! Thanks for sharing:)