02/17/14 10:06am

How to Order Authentically Spicy Ethiopian Food

Welcome to the seventh installment of C+M’s ongoing series of audio guides on how to order authentically spicy food in ethnic restaurants. As a service to C+M readers Anne Noyes Saini has been compiling a series of audio guides demonstrating phrases in several relevant languages, which can be used to navigate ordering situations fraught with tricky cultural and language barriers.

Today a primer from Kedija Sraje of Brooklyn’s Bunna Cafe on how to order authentically spicy Ethiopian food. Kedija hails from Addis Ababa. “I think Ethiopian food is the spiciest compared to other parts of Africa.” Check out today’s lesson to make sure that next time you tear into that injera bread you’re dipping it into food that brings the heat.

As Kedija points out berbere is a common ingredient in Ethiopina cuisine. In Amharic one would say, “Betam berbere,” to request more of the spice mixture whose elements include chili peppers, as well as garlic and ginger. To  really kick things up a notch she suggests asking for some fiery daata sauce, or better yet the powder known as mitmita. 

Take great care with the latter one though as it’s often ground very, very fine, and it is possible to accidentally inhale it while eating. Trust me, I learned that lesson from personal experience.

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