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