I’m no stranger to ordering platters of raw meat in random places (i.e. at the home where Dracula/Vlad Tepes was born, in Romania) so I made it my culinary mission to try a popular local dish called kitfo while in Ethiopia.
Kitfo is raw ground beef marinated in red chili powder and clarified butter, served with injera and a variety of flatbreads. Essentially it’s the spicy, Ethiopian version of steak tartare. I first heard about kitfo from Fresh and Green Academy’s director Muday Mitiko’s food-loving husband, Anteneh. According to him, if there is one dish to try in Addis Ababa, this is it. I know what you may be thinking: “REALLY?! Raw meat? in Ethiopia?!” Yes, really. Anteneh’s enthusiasm is bigger than life and completely contagious. How could I resist? Plus, I’m crazy about raw meat dishes: carpaccio, tartare, all of it..bring it on!
Once I became aware of kitfo, I saw it everywhere: splashed across numerous restaurant signs and even the dish itself being devoured by a group of well-dressed women in a cultural center. Though many restaurants in Addis Ababa specialize in kitfo, finding the right one is key. I put my faith and my stomach in the hands of Anteneh and Muday. We headed out one evening, winding through rush hour traffic in their green 1950s VW Bug.
It took us two tries to find the perfect kitfo spot (the first one didn’t serve beer and had a sketchy vibe). Finally we settled into a small, non-descript restaurant near the center of town. We each ordered a giant portion of kitfo and washed our hands in the outside sink. The beer arrived and Anteneh could hardly contain himself, he was so excited for me to try his favorite dish. I’m guessing that most tourists (American or otherwise) don’t dig fingers-first into giant bowls of raw meat when they visit Ethiopia. They really should, though, the kitfo turned out to be nothing short of amazing.
The meat is mouth-burning spicy, I’m guessing the massive amount of chili powder also serves as an anti-bacterial measure. The meat is lean, tender and tastes fresh. Kitfo is traditionally served with a variety of toppings. We each get a large side dish filled with stewed collard greens, cottage cheese and salty farmer’s cheese.
Besides the traditional injera flatbread, the kitfo is also served with a thicker, hard bread called kocho, made with the stem of the inset plant, similar to a banana plant. We eat with our hands and I’m blasting through the bread like it’s going out of style. I honestly never thought I’d end up in Ethiopia eating raw meat, but I’m so glad I did.
Anteneh offered up some Ethiopian wisdom regarding the consumption of food. When the eater is happy, their stomach remains happy. When the eater is sad or nervous, the stomach is also sad. Makes sense to me. My stomach remained happy throughout the entire week in Addis Ababa, thanks to the incredible kindness and hospitality I received from Muday and Anteneh.
2011 Mileage Total: 62143