Ato Solomon and his wife, Dr. Ejignesh, who were our amazing guides to Ethiopian Easter, Fasika. Dr. Ejignesh was my lovely cooking instructor for preparing doro wat.
“Doro” means chicken and “wat” means stew in Amharic so doro wat literally means chicken stew. While chicken is perhaps the cheap meat in Canada and is even very common in neighboring East African countries like Kenya and Tanzania, chicken is very especial for Ethiopians. This is in part because industrialized farm meat is less common in Ethiopia and there are no supermarkets with refrigeration in Assosa. Electricity is unreliable so the fridges at the little market stores only keep water cold and that’s it. Butchers have huge slabs of cow carcasses hanging up, carving off kilo sized portions for customers but I guess it is neither feasible nor sanitary to do that for chickens. Consequently, preparing chicken takes a heck of a lot of work starting from buying a live chicken from the Saturday market and butchering it in the yard.
I went over to Ato Solomon, the Family Planning Officer at the Regional Health Bureau and the co-worker whose desk is right beside mine, and his wife, Dr. Ejignesh, on Easter Sunday. I was Dr Ejignesh assistant as she ripped off the skin and feathers of the chicken and cut up the meat into 12 pieces. These 12 pieces are different from my Western conceptualization of chicken pieces and the most important piece dedicated to the head of the household is the stomach. The chicken is then cleaned and sanitized with multiple washings. The first wash is with water, then next with soapy laundry detergent water, then next with water again and then finally put into a pot with water and limes. The lime both cleans, disinfects and apparently takes out a bit of the gamey chicken taste.
Cooking doro wat starts with frying up 2 kg of finely chopped (or pureed) onions with a generous dose of oil. After a bit of time, we added 7 heaping spoonfuls of berbery powder and fried it for a bit longer. The whole pot was simply frying onions and chili. Amazing! Dr. Ejignesh boiled three tomatoes to make it easier to peel it and then chopped it up and put it into the spicy onion along with a couple heaping spoonfuls of pureed garlic. Then, we added in the chicken pieces and then some hot water to make it more of a stew. Finally, we added in spiced butter, peeled hard boiled eggs and the rest of the garlic. We cooked it for a while longer. This whole process has taken a few hours and Solomon now sound asleep on the bed. We woke him up and then ate as the sun was setting. I was still full from the three meals I already had today but I had to eat. The meal was so incredibly spicy that the cold beer slushie we had with it went down extremely fast. I want to make this dish at home…maybe with some store bought chicken and only a couple spoonfuls of berbery.
From farm to table, Ethiopian style! I am assisting Dr. Ejignesh in butchering the chicken.
Now to cut the chicken into the 12 pieces
The stomach of the chicken, the most prized part. It is carefully cleaned before cooking and reserved for the head of the household.
Carefully washing the chicken meat…
Look at all that garlic! Yum!
So this is what 2kg of pureed onions look like…
Chili and onions…simply chili and onions…
Cooking all that goodness together
Chopping up three peeled tomatoes (boiling the tomatoes first to make for easier peeling)
Now finally add the chicken pieces
Cook and add more hot water until it is a sauce. Final stage, add in the rest of the garlic, peeled boiled eggs and spiced butter
Goes really well with cold beer!