My absolute favourite meal hands down is Ethiopian. There’s a variety of vegetarian dishes that are vibrant, bursting with flavours, and so incredibly tasty. It’s quite the experience too, as the food is served on top of a large flat sponge-like sour bread, called injera. Then you’re given a plate with additional injera rolled up on the side. You break off bite sized pieces of the bread to scoop up the delicious food, traditionally only using your right hand.
A few common Ethiopian vegetarian/vegan dishes:
- Kik Alicha – Yellow split peas simmered in a mild turmeric ginger sauce
- Mesir Wot – Split lentils simmered in a spicy bebere sauce
- Gomen – Spinach simmered in mild sauce, seasoned with spices and herbs
- Tikil Gomen – Cabbage and carrots simmered in a mild sauce
- Atikilt Wok – Fresh green beans and carrots simmered in a mild sauce
- Shiro -Pureed split peas cooked in a spicy sauce
- Inguday Tibs – Spicy portobello mushrooms marinated and sauteed with onion, garlic, and tomatoes
If we lived closer to an Ethiopian restaurant we’d eat it several times a week! But unfortunately since we don’t, I’ve tried to recreate a few of our favourite Ethiopian dishes at home when the craving strikes. This recipe I’m sharing today is called Mesir Wot. The dish consists of red lentils cooked with onion, garlic, and a mix of spices known as berbere powder.
There are several suggestions online to create your own berbere powder by mixing several spices (read here, just omit the garlic, ginger, and oil from that recipe for a dry powder mix). Or you can order from a spice merchant online that your trust. We were fortunate that an Ethiopian restaurant we frequent, happily sold us a large bag of bebere powder that they get direct from Ethiopia! Can’t get more authentic then that. This spicy red lentil dish traditionally is served on top of injera, but I’ve also made it several times using brown rice or quinoa to complete the meal instead. In the summer, I mixed this red lentil dish with brown rice and kept it simmering in a slow cooker to share at a potluck BBQ, and it got several great reviews!
If you’re located in Vancouver B.C. or here visiting, the best Ethiopian we’ve discovered is Axum Restaurant on Hastings, and the Inguday Tips they make are the best! We also enjoyed a wonderful family run Ethiopian restaurant in Portland, WA called Abyssinian Kitchen. The food was excellent as well as the atmosphere, it’s in a funky neighbourhood, located in the bottom level of a house! If you’ve got a favourite Ethiopian Restaurant in your city, please share the name in the comments below.
I hope you enjoy this dish, and if you get a chance, check out your local Ethiopian Restaurant. I promise the food is so delicious, it may even become your favourite meal too.
- 1 Red Onion, diced
- ¼ cup Coconut Oil
- 2-3 tbsp Berbere Powder
- 3 cups Dried Red Lentils, rinsed
- 5 cups Water
- ¼ cup Tomato Paste
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- 4-6 Garlic Cloves
- 2 tsp Raw Ginger
- In a large pot, add coconut oil and diced onions, cook on medium heat until translucent.
- Add berbere powder to the onions and cook for 2-3 mins while stirring.
- Then add rinsed red lentils to the pot and stir well.
- Mix in the water and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until red lentils are fully cooked.
- Blend garlic cloves and ginger together with 2 tablespoons of water to make a paste.
- Stir the ginger garlic paste into the red lentils and continue simmering on low until ready to eat.
- Serve on top of Injera Bread, brown rice or quinoa.