Ethiopian Etiquette

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Anxious about eating in a brand new restaurant? Are you worried that you won’t know what to do or not to do? Here are some tips to ease your nerves. Don’t worry, though, it’s really all about the food and the people you’re with. You will enjoy both at Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen! Ethiopian dining is distinctive in many ways; there are only a few cultures that share Ethiopia’s methods of consumption and preparation. With the abundance of western culinary options even at ethnic restaurants, you may expect to find these options here at Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen. But while you are here, you will definitely see and eat true Ethiopian food.

The majority of Ethiopian food is served with injera, the biggest staple food of the country. Injera is a soft, flat, spongy bread. It can be made with several different types of grain, and therefore can have several different colors and flavors. Usually, it has a tangy, slightly sour taste, but it is not an overpowering flavor at all. Injera is usually served with several different wots. The traditional dish of Ethiopia is the wot, which is a mixture of meats, vegetables, spices and sauces. Wots are usually spicy, but there is such a wide variety of wots and some are not spicy. Injera is rolled into a sheet and the wots are served directly on top of it. This way the injera is serving as a plate and a utensil.

Traditionally, Ethiopian food is eaten with the hands. This is done by tearing off some injera and using it to scoop up some food and then eat all of it. For newcomers, this may feel slightly awkward at first, but usually it becomes fun after a while. Foreigners are not usually familiar with traditional Ethiopian etiquette, so here are some tips before you come:

  • Communal plates are usually used for traditional meals, but reaching across the whole plate to get food is impolite, stick to eating what is close to you.
  • The left hand is considered unclean in Ethiopian culture, so try to remember to eat with your right hand.
  • You will always be able to wash your hands before and after the meal. A waiter may bring a basin and a water pitcher for you to do so. Hold your hands over the basin and the waiter will pour the water over your hands.
  • Don’t be nervous or shy!! Its completely normal to have your hands covered in food and grabbing food with the injera can prove difficult at times. It is acceptable to use your hands to grab food as well, but it’s usually easier to use injera.
  • Often, when greeting people at the restaurant, they will have washed their hands already, but they may be covered in food. Instead of a handshake, lightly grasp their wrist, when they offer it,but do not shake it. If your hands have food on them too, touching your wrist to theirs is acceptable as well.
  • A gesture that you may encounter is the gursha, which is when someone puts food in your mouth. This gesture is one of respect and it is polite to accept it.

Many Ethiopians fast two days a week due to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Wednesday and Friday. There are also two fasting months before Easter (the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s Easter is later than other denominations). On fasting days, there is no eating or drinking until after 3pm. There is also no eating of animal products, excluding fish. Some restaurants do not serve meat on these days.

Come in to Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen and enjoy our warm hospitality, family style cooking and meticulously prepared Ethiopian Food. We look forward to meeting you!