“Wat’s for dinner.” No, that's not a question! Wat really is for dinner when you're exploring Ethiopia!
What is Wat?
Wat is a traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean stew. It can be made with different meats, like chicken, beef, lamb, and venison, or it can be vegetarian and made with lentils and split peas or chickpea flour.
Traditional wat is spicy. Like Super-Hot Spicy!
The reason for the heat is the spice blends that they use to season the dish. Berbere is a mixture of chili peppers, garlic, and ginger-which all have a little or a LOT of heat.
Those are blended with spices which are potent in their flavors, like korarima, which is also from the ginger family, called the Ethiopian coriander. Basil and fenugreek are components added to the mixture. They also include Indian long pepper, or pipli, which is also really hot!
The blend of aromatic and hot spices combines to make a unique dish. Of course you can adjust the heat to your taste! Wat is as versatile as it is delicious!
Yummy Seasoned Butter
The other unique bit about this stew is how it’s started. The base is made from sautéing finely diced onions in niter kibbeh, or niter qibe. What’s that?
It’s kind of like Indian ghee, the clarified butter that’s used in Indian cuisine. Except this butter is seasoned up!
Butter is clarified by melting it slowly and then straining it. Butter naturally has milk solids in it. To remove them, the slow heating separates the solids.
Then the spices are added to the pale, yellow liquid. The spices for niter kibbeh are things like basil, fenugreek, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and nutmeg. These season the clarified butter and give it a distinct, spicy smell and flavor!
The onions are added to a bit of niter kibbeh. Slow cooking and caramelization create the base for the stew and is a way to thicken it.
For a vegan version of wat, vegetable oil can be used in place of clarified butter.
The Many Versions Of Wat
Doro wat is, by far, the most popular version of wat. It also happens to be the national dish of Ethiopia! Doro wat is featured during Enkutatash, the Ethiopian New Year.
It’s the chicken version of the stew. Made with thighs or drumsticks, onions, and, of course, the seasonings! Simple and easy to put together. No wonder it’s a popular dish!
Boiled eggs are added to the chicken once it’s cooked and, voila! Dinner is done.
This version is made with red lentils. It makes a great vegetarian option and is one of the vegetarian staples in Ethiopia.
A recipe for both Doro Wat and Misir Wat is included in the Eat2Explore Ethiopia box!
If you’re looking for a version that’s both vegetarian and gluten free, try Shiro Wat. This one is made with chickpea flour, also called Besan flour. The chickpea four adds a distinct nutty flavor.
For a recipe that uses beef (or venison) try abish wat.
All of the recipes, whether with meat or the vegetarian versions, are prepared the same. Caramelized onions and slow cooked to yummy perfection.
Don't Forget The Injera!
And it would not be an authentic Ethiopian meal without injera to scoop up the delicious flavors. The Ethiopian flatbread is used as a utensil, because you don’t need forks and spoons when you have injera to convey the stew from the platter to your mouth!
Plus, you need the bread to soak up the tasty broth bits.
Cook up a batch. Don’t forget the injera. Gather around this Ethiopian delicacy and dig in, family style!
Experiment with flavors from around the world! Try something new and delicious with eat2explore! You can begin with our awesome Ethiopia box and find out Wat's So Awesome About Wat!