best food in addis ababa

Ethiopia has been on my bucket list for quite some time. I’ve been looking forward to the culture, the scenery and the coffee – but above all, I came here to immerse myself in the food!

I’ve eaten Ethiopian food back home in Melbourne, but there’s nothing like tasting the real deal on home soil. Our arrival in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia was approaching and this city is supposed to have some of the best food in the country.

I needed some local guidance so I didn’t miss out on eating some of the best food in Addis Ababa, so we booked a food tour with GoAddisTours.

These guys have a glowing reputation for introducing Ethiopian food to hungry visitors and showing them the best food to eat in Addis Ababa.

We made our way to the starting point, an outdoor restaurant, centrally located in Addis and not far from our accommodation – Mr Martin’s Cozy Place,  a great option for budget-conscious travellers. They offer clean and comfortable rooms with an included breakfast and good coffee.

Only minutes after our arrival at the meeting place, our local guide Dessie walked in. We could tell he’d be our guide for the day from his high energy and a huge smile as he approached us.

After a brief chat about where we’d be going during our 3-4 hour tour today, what we should expect to be eating and how far we would be walking (about 45min), we set off toward our first stop.

The freshest coffee ever!

Perfect! Our first stop involved coffee, probably the freshest coffee I’ll ever consume. We sat down at the front of a small coffee shop to watch and be part of a traditional coffee ceremony. Ethiopians enjoy this ritual each day.  Dessie explained the ceremony as the host of the coffee shop performed each step.

best food in addis ababa

Our host roasts fresh coffee beans as our guide, Dessie explains the origins of coffee.

First, some incense is lit on the table, this is to ward off bad spirits during the ceremony. Freshly washed coffee beans are placed on an iron plate and placed over a small coal fire and fanned. The beans are moved around as they slowly roast. The aroma is fantastic.

best food in addis ababa

Perfectly roasted coffee beans. The aroma is incredible!

Once the beans are ready, our host places them into a deep pestle and mortar and ground them until just right. She then puts the ground coffee inside a terracotta jug and fills it with fresh water. The coffee is then put on the coal fire to brew.

Did we mention we love good coffee?

Once the coffee is ready, our host pours us each a small cup of coffee, being careful to pour in one fluid motion. Our coffee was served with a piece of ‘roua’ on the side.

This is a plant that grows in Ethiopia and it enhances the taste of the coffee.  Ten seconds is all that you need to steep the plant in your small cup of coffee.

I tried one cup with the plant and another cup without it. I enjoyed it both ways.

best food in addis ababa

Fresh coffee is served to us.

A stop for some fresh juice

After chatting over delicious coffee and learning more about the origins of it, we moved on to our next stop, a fresh juice café. Dessie explains that locals will sometimes substitute a meal for a big glass of fresh fruit juice, accompanied by bread.

We each were served a tall glass of fresh juice. It was different to any I’ve had before. The glass contained all colours of the rainbow, there were at least 8 different fruits in there, plus a creamy avocado juice one on top. The juice was thick, yet delicious. They gave us some fresh lime to squeeze over it, very refreshing.

Time for Fish

Moving on, our next stop was a fresh fish restaurant. This place was hidden in a small street, a location only a local could know about. Humble tables and seats inside, I looked around to see only locals and families eating here.  Dessie ordered us the local specialty, along with a bottle of local beer.

Fresh bread rolls arrived with a side dish of a green spicy dip (cochocha), which included ingredients such as fresh rosemary, coriander and chilli.  The dip was to eat with bread, also to accompany the fish once it arrived.

Not even ten minutes later, our fresh tilapia fish arrived. The whole fish had been thoughtfully prepared. The eyes and insides are removed, then the fish is scored crossways on each side of the fish so it can be easily eaten without cutlery.

best food in addis ababa

Deep fried Tilapia fish.

The fish is washed in water and cardamon, scored and then covered in wheat flour and deep fried.  It was cooked perfectly, the addition of the green chilli dip was delicious.

I especially liked how the scoring of the fish made it easy to pull pieces of the fish off to eat without having to deal with a bunch of bones etc.

Injera and Curries

With our bellies definitely filling up, we continued on to the part I’d been expecting and looking forward to. Dessie stopped in front of a small place which looked like a small bar. Locals looked to be enjoying a late afternoon drink to end the working day it seemed.

We were seated inside this small place and Dessie told us that we’d be eating injera (the very popular fermented bread eaten with everything in Ethiopia) with a bunch of different wats (curries). This place was very popular for their shiro wat, one of the most loved curries in Ethiopia. The main ingredient is chick-pea flour.

best food in addis ababa

Our final food stop of the tour – Delicious

The dish arrived, my eyes lit up with pleasure. A huge plate of injera with around 7 different curries on top and a dish of shiro curry arrived separately. Dessie explained the ingredients of each curry, the names of each and gave us a short demonstration of how to eat in Ethiopia.

The right hand must only be used when eating. The left hand is reserved for other unsanitary activities. The rule is to tear off a piece of injera, dip it into the curries, cover it and eat. Double dipping isn’t encouraged.

Learning more about this diverse cuisine

We sat and ate our bodyweight full of injera and curries whilst chatting to Dessie and learning more about Ethiopian culture.

The shiro curry was exceptional. The depth of flavour was incredible – as he explained to me earlier, the longer this stew cooks, the better flavour you’ll end up with.

He scraped the bottom of the shiro dish and placed it on top of the injera and asked us to taste it. Wow, this was the best part! The flavour that almost burns on the bottom of the pot is always good, all crispy and delicious.

best food in addis ababa

Dessie and us enjoying some delicious local food

At this point, Marty and I are officially full! I physically couldn’t force another mouthful of this tasty food into my mouth. Mission accomplished! What a fantastic afternoon, complete with some very memorable Ethiopian food.

This food tour was one of my favourite experiences in this country. A great introduction to learn how to find more of the best food in Addis Ababa.

If you’d like to find out more about exploring this city with a local, contact the very friendly and knowledgeable team at Go Addis Tours. They offer food tours, market tours and also full day and half day city tours in Addis Ababa.

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