The Ethiopian cuisine and Eritrean (especially in the northern half) is the same with a subtle difference in the foods, given the shared history of the two countries.
The main traditional food in Eritrean cuisine is tsebhi (stew), served with taita (flatbread made from teff, wheat, or sorghum), and hilbet (paste made from legumes; mainly lentil and faba beans). A typical traditional Eritrean dish consists of injera accompanied by a spicy stew, which frequently includes beef, goat, lamb or fish. Overall, Eritrean cuisine strongly resembles that of neighboring Ethiopia, although Eritrean cooking tends to feature more seafood than Ethiopian cuisine on account of its coastal location. Eritrean dishes are also frequently lighter in texture than Ethiopian meals as they tend to employ less seasoned butter and spices and more tomatoes, as in the tsebhi dorho delicacy.
Additionally, owing to its colonial history, cuisine in Eritrea features more Italian influences than are present in Ethiopian cooking, including more pasta and greater use of curry powders and cumin.The Italian Eritrean cuisine started to be practiced during the colonial times of the Kingdom of Italy, when a large number of Italians moved to Eritrea. They brought the use of pasta to Italian Eritrea, and it is one of the main foods eaten in present-day Asmara. An Italian Eritrean cuisine emerged, with dishes such as 'Pasta al Sugo e Berbere', which means "Pasta with tomato sauce and berbere" (spice), and other delicacies like "lasagna" and "cotoletta alla milanese" (milano cutlet) also became commonly incorporated. People in Eritrea also tend to drink coffee and a bitter fermented barley beer called sowa. Mies is another popular local alcoholic beverage, made out of honey.
Common foods and dishes
Eritrean food habits vary regionally. In the highlands, injera is the staple diet and eaten daily among the Tigrinya. When eating, diners generally share food from a large tray placed in the centre of a low dining table. Numerous pieces of injera are layered on this tray and topped with various spicy stews. Diners break into the section of injera in front of them, tearing off pieces and dipping them into the stews.
The stews that accompany injera are usually made from beef, chicken, mutton or vegetables. Most Eritreans, with the exception of the Saho, like their food hot and spicy. Berbere, a spice mixture that consists of a variety of common and unusual herbs and spices, accompanies almost all dishes. Stews include zigni, which is made with beef; dorho tsebhi, which is made with chicken; alicha, which is a vegetable dish made without berbere; and shiro, a purée of various legumes.
In the lowlands, the main dish is akelet (also known locally as ga'at), a porridge-like dish made from wheat flour dough. A ladle is used to make an indentation in the dough, which is then filled with a mixture of berbere and melted butter, and surrounded by milk or yogurt. When dining, a small piece of Ga'at is dipped into the berbere and the butter sauce, and then into the milk or yogurt.
- Kitcha fit-fit, a dish made from pieces of a hearty pancake tossed in clarified butter and spices. Normally served for breakfast with a side of yogurt.
- Fit-fit, made with torn up pieces of injera and usually leftover stew. It can also be made with a mixture of onions, berbere, tomatoes, jalapenos and butter instead of leftover stews
- Ga'at , a porridge made of flour and water, served in a bowl with an indentation made in the center where clarified butter and berbere are mixed. Yogurt is normally put on the sides surrounding the ga'at.
- Fuul, sauteed and mashed fava beans, served with onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, cumin, yogurt and olive oil. It is normally eaten with pieces of bread dipped in the dish to scoop out the bean mixture.
- Panettone, due to the Italian influence on Eritrea, this bread is commonly served with tea or during the Coffee ceremony
Most dishes common to Eritrea are either meat based or vegetable based stews that are served over the spongy, fermented bread Injera
- Tsebhi/Zigni: a spicy stew made with lamb, mutton,cubes of beef or ground beef and berbere
- Dorho: a spicy stew made with berbere and a whole chicken
- Alicha: a non-berbere dish made with potatoes, green beans, carrots, green peppers and tumeric
- Shiro: a stew made with ground chickpea flour and onions and tomatoes
- Birsen: birsen translates to lentils; which are often cooked with onions, spices, and tomatoes. This curry can be made with berbere or without berbere.
- Hamli: sauteed spinach, garlic and onions
- Kitfo: minced raw beef served with clarified butter, spices and a side of Mitmita.
Sowa is the name for the home-brewed beer common in Eritrea. It is made from roasted corn, barley and other grain and is flavored with gesho, a type of buckthorn leaf. The beverage is often made for celebrations; a sweet honey wine is also commonly served. The coffee ceremony is one of the most important and recognizable parts of Eritrean and Ethiopian cultures. Coffee is offered when visiting friends, during festivities, or as a daily staple of life. If coffee is politely declined, then tea (shahee) will most likely be served.
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