Taste this: Doro Wat

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Wrap some tangy injera (fermented pancake) around a morsel of doro wat, a chicken stew with a devilish hot fizz, pop it into your mouth and savour the tastes of highland Ethiopia

 

What is it?
Wat is the catch-all name for a whole array of Ethiopian dishes that look like curries and act like curries, but often give a knock-out spice punch that few curries can match. Doro wat, which is virtually the national dish of Ethiopia, is a thick stew of chicken, egg and onion laced with the exotic sounding berbere spice mixture.

 

Origin
The history of wat and injera stretches back a long way, but like so much that is Ethiopian, the actual origins remain largely unknown. What we do know is that the ox and plough have been used in Ethiopia for at least 3000 years (in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa these items were unknown until just a couple of hundred years ago) and that teff, the essential behind injera, is probably as old. As for wat, that has been consumed in some variation for just as long but the dish didn’t gain its legendary bite until the arrival of the chilli with the first Portuguese.

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Tasting
There is an art to eating doro wat. Firstly, do away with plates, bowls and utensils and instead pile the wat on to a sheet of injera. On to what, you might ask? Unique to Ethiopia, injera can best be described as a large, thin, rubbery and rather sour tasting fermented pancake made of teff , a cereal that grows only in the Ethiopian highlands. The injera serves as accompaniment, cutlery and, some would say, tablecloth to your wat; its bitter tang tempers the fire of the wat. In order to make your Ethiopian meal even more authentic, fi nish off with a brain-bendingly strong Ethiopian coffee (Ethiopia is the original home of the coffee plant).

 

Finding it
Eat doro wat at the Dashen Traditional Restaurant (off Itegue Taitu St) in Addis Ababa. Budget Birr 100–145 (US$5–8) for a meal.

 

TIP
If your dining partner suddenly leans forward and, using their fingers, daintily places a morsel of doro wat and injera into your mouth, don’t be alarmed. This is the Ethiopian custom of gursha and it’s a sign of friendship or love.

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This extract is adapted from The World’s Best Spicy Food © Lonely Planet 2014 www.lonelyplanet.com.  Priced at £14.99, Lonely Planet’s new title is out now and full of must eat dishes for hungry heat lovers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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