Ethiopian cuisine celebrates the joy of eating in endearing ways. Vikas Plakkot finds himself travelling back in time on a culinary journey through the African country.
Perched on a low wooden stool inside a restaurant in the northern Ethiopian town of Axum, I’m enthralled by the eskista performance unravelling in front of me. It features intense shoulder movements synced with folk tunes. In the foreground, a well-dressed man digs into a large plate of food to tear offa portion of grey flatbread, rolls it in meat stew, and feeds his partner. As she gobbles it down, a smile spreads across her face. This act of feeding someone with your hands is called gursha, a way of expressing love in Ethiopia, and it’s no surprise that it features food.
In Ethiopia, eating is an art form, a communal exercise whose centrepiece is the large sourdough bread injera. The pancake lookalike is made of teff, the planet’s smallest grain, which Ethiopians have grown for eons. Spread around the large injera are a host of dishes ranging from spicy curries to leafy greens. I spy minced meat, a large chilli with kachumbari filling, a chickpea stew, and even some roasted lamb. Shunning all notions of restaurant etiquette, I shove my hands into the platter, invoking the Malayali in me. The dishes vanish in swift succession, as I call for more injera to wipe out the remaining veggies.
That’s all it takes to relish a meal in this country—a well-made injera, good company, and soiled hands.
OH SO SPICY!
On my very first afternoon in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s unassuming capital, I make my way to the 2000 Habesha Cultural Restaurant. This widely recognised outlet serves all the classic Ethiopian dishes, accompanied by sheesha, black coffee, and soulful local music.
The only dish I order is doro wat, thick and spicy chicken curry simmered in a blend of spices and cooked with Ethiopian butter. In some parts of the country, whipping up a delicious bowl of doro wat is said to be the test that every to-be bride has to undergo to win the right to marriage. The key ingredient is the berbere, a mix of spices and herbs that finds a place in many local dishes.
When the food arrives, it tugs at memory strings: the dining room of our ancestral Kerala home, where grandma’s dosa and chicken curry arrived in a similar fashion. I quickly ration out the chicken pieces between me and my partner, and mark my territory on the injera, drawing from childhood memories.
We wolf down the meal in a jiffy, pinning the ravenous appetite on our weary journey—fully aware that the food on the plate is to blame.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
OVER HILL, OVER DALE
The wild, windswept landscapes and industrial-age towns of Yorkshire, in northeastern England, might seem like an unlikely setting for a cultural and culinary groundswell. But in fact, as JOSHUA LEVINE finds, this has always been a place that fosters proudly unexpected points of view.
THE KING AND I
Luxury realtor SUSH CLAYS takes us to a royal wedding in the Noor Mahal Palace, home to the nawab of Rampur. Nawab Kazim Ali Khan tells the tale of the dynasty, its magnificent Raza Library, and years of progressive thinking that expanded the region and its many enterprises.
RAISING THE BAR
Cognac, the corner of southwestern France best known for its brandy, has long held fast to tradition. But as young chefs, winegrowers, and distillers shake up the status quo, the region is learning to embrace innovation—without losing its old-fashioned spirit.
STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE
From an Instagram star who leads photo tours of secret spots to a herbalist who shows visitors how to cook what they forage, enterprising Bermudians are giving travellers an insider’s perspective of the island’s dynamic culture.
IN THE CITY OF SAINTS
On a journey to Ethiopia, SARAH KHAN wanders the ancient alleyways of Harar and finds a new link to her faith—one that makes even the most far-flung place feel familiar.
The Intelligent Traveller
Tips and Tricks to Help you travel Smarter
FROM THE ROYAL COOKBOOK
Rewa in Madhya Pradesh used to be a hunting ground for maharajas, but few were privy to its recipes involving game meat. As the royal cuisine adapts to the times, GEETIKA SACHDEV samples its flavourful offerings.
OLD STITCH, NEW THREAD
The cover girls of this issue are wearing a wonderful fusion of tradition and modernity, thanks to a vibrant collection from Raw Mango. AINDRILA MITRA speaks to the brand’s founder and textile designer, Sanjay Garg, about the collection, sustainable fashion, and measured innovation within traditional textile practices.
EXCLUSIVELY YOURS, SANTORINI
A couple travels to the famous Greek island in winter to find it completely bereft of tourists, an unlikely but ideal scenario for a honeymoon.
SPREADING HER WINGS
YOUTUBE, NETFLIX, AND THE BIG SCREEN—ACTOR MITHILA PALKAR HAS SHONE ON EVERY PLATFORM SHE HAS EXPLORED IN HER SHORT ACTING CAREER SO FAR. WHILE MOST ATTRIBUTE HER SUCCESS TO A GIRL NEXT-DOOR DEMEANOUR, WE SEE A VERSATILE ARTIST JUST STARTING TO UNLEASH HER FULL POTENTIAL.
Built by Angels
My mother called to ask if I knew the story of the 11 churches carved from single stones in Ethiopia
APPRECILOVING THE HARMONY
DIVE DEEP INTO RASTAFARI PHILOSOPHY AND TRADITIONS AT THE RASTAFARI INDIGENOUS VILLAGE.
Salt Of The Earth
Salt has a life far beyond the dinner table. From land speed records to ancient lakes, this mineral is intimately tied to our lives and our land
THE BOEING 737 MAX ROARS BACK INTO THE SKIES
The two accidents involving the Boeing 737 MAX were indicative of the need for review and restructuring of regulatory procedures to remove inherent flaws in the system
The 5 Habits Of Highly Resilient Businesses
Common traits that allow companies to emerge successfully, whatever their industry.
Sudan, Ethiopia leaders meet after cross-border deadly raid
Hamdok and Ahmed’s meeting comes just days ater a cross-border atack by Ethiopian forces and militias that killed at least four Sudanese troops and wounded a dozen others
Per Mesut: For Younger Readers
Gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrr
Tigray rampage killed over 600: EHRC
GONDAR: A local youth group aided by police and militia killed at least 600 people in a “rampage” on Nov.9 in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the national rights watchdog said on Tuesday.
MY LIFE IN FOOD - ROMESH RANGANATHAN
The comedian talks Ethiopian cuisine, bizarre food experiences and his mum’s top-secret spice blend
The barefoot doctor
Mamitu Gashe went from a poor peasant girl whose life was saved by Dr Catherine Hamlin to a surgeon in the Aussie heroine’s fistula hospital in Ethiopia. Sue Williams tells her story.