104 - What's Wat

Ethiopia is famous for its slowly cooked meat and legume dishes that use an abundance of spices. The cuisine in this east African country is unique, no other African nation's food tastes like it or uses ingredients in quite the same way.

Take for example one of the country's most popular dishes -- the wat. A medley of pulses and/or meats are slowly stewed with niter kibbeh (spiced butter), berbere (spicy red pepper paste) and the ever-present fenugreek until a steady simmer produces a rich, savoury and hearty dish.

Ethiopian veggie watToronto's own Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant -- so named after the 13 rock-hewn churches many consider to be the eighth wonder of the world -- serves up some of the best wats in town. Prepared fresh daily by owner Azres Mekonnen and his cooks, the wats here range from the strictly vegetarian (chickpeas, kelp, lentil, cabbage and carrot) to the carnivore's delight of spicy lamb, chicken or beef.

My favourite is the doro wat (chicken wat) served with a selection of vegetable offerings. Presented over injera -- a spongy flat bread that doubles as your cutlery, the idea is to rip off a piece of the bread and use it to scoop up some of the wats and their accompanying juices.

If you want to eat as the Ethiopians do, use your right hand only (always clean before eating) to enjoy the spicy, aromatic flavours found in this country's exotic culinary repertoire.

And don't forget to order the famous Ethiopian coffee before you order your meal -- it takes a while to prepare, but, trust me, it's worth it.

Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant
869 Bloor St. W.
Toronto, Ontario
(416) 535-6615