Yoga Journal Pose of the Day

Friday, January 16, 2009

Kitfo and Tej

November 21-22/08: My friends took me north of the city, on the other side of Entoto, into Oromia, to sample some of the finest tej and kitfo in the area.

Tej is a honey-wine. It can be quite wonderful. The first bottle arrived and was rather fiery stuff. Cooled a little with a milder bottle, it went down pretty smoothly and it could have been far too easy for me to lose track of how many birilles I had consumed!

I had tasted tej before in Lalibela, where it tasted somewhat muddy and had a pronounced after-taste of minerals. This time the tej was far superior and justifiably deserving of its reputation as the traditional drink of Ethiopian kings.

The appetizer, tibs, most probably sliced up lamb, pan fried in butter with onion and mild chili peppers, served with berbere on the side. Injera, the bread/pancake-like staple of the Ethiopian diet is made from an endemic grain called tef. A roll of it is often placed at the side and one breaks off a piece of it to use as an eating utensil. Food is usually eaten by everyone off a shared plate.

The kitfo arrives. Kitfo is a specialty made from the leanest beef, minced and warmed in a pan with a little berbere and thyme. Traditionally, it is served only just warmed, much like steak tartare, but I didn't think I would be able to do that! So for me it was served betam leb leb, ie 'very well warmed' or well cooked.

Kitfo is also often served with kotcho, false-banana bread, made from enset. It looks something like two squares of bread smashed together with a whitish substance something like cheese in the middle. I have to admit, it must be an acquired taste that I have not acquired! Kotcho is visible in the photo above as the square piece at the edge of the plate in the foreground at 6 o'clock and as the brown square at 11:00 o'clock.
The photo below shows enset growing in a friend's garden.
Kitfo is often served with aib and gomen (something like cottage cheese and minced spinach). I just missed showing you how attractively the food was presented, the aib and gomen arriving in a small bowl in which the two were swirled in a pattern something like a flower. You'll just have to use your imagination.

Okay, as we're leaving the restaurant compound, I know I had a lot of tej to drink, but isn't there something wrong with that sign?

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