Wat (or alternately, wot) is an Ethiopian stew spiced with the ridiculously hot spice mixture berbere (recipe follows that of doro wat) and cooked in a copious amount of niter kibbeh, Ethiopian clarified butter. The chicken version, doro wat (recipe follows) is probably the most popular, though lamb, beef, or even vegetarian versions are common.
More Ethiopian dishes on the World Cup of Food:
- Injera, Ethiopian sourdough flatbreads (with Ethiopian cuisine overview)
- Niter Kibbeh, spiced clarified butter
- Gomen, stewed, spiced collard greens
Traditional wats are made by first slowly browning onions un a dry pot, then adding the rest of the ingredients. This method requires a lot of babysitting, constantly stirring and adjusting the temperature to avoid burning. We found several sources that cook the onions in niter kibbeh, making it much easier to avoid disaster, so that is what we did. Either way, the dish starts with a lot of onions cooked for a long time, developing a deep caramelized, sweet flavor that permeates the dish and helps offset the spiciness.
- 2 large yellow onions and one large red onion, chopped
- 5 Tbs niter kibbeh
- 1/3 cup berbere (recipe follows)
- 4 Tbs minced ginger
- 4 chicken thighs, skinned
- 3 cups water
- 4 hard-cooked eggs (slightly undercooked preferred, since they will be reheated in the wat)
First the niter kibbeh was melted in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. once the clarified butter was melted we added the onions:
Once we could hear some sizzling the heat was reduced to low and the onions were very slowly browned, stirring often, for an hour. Next we added the berbere and the ginger:
The spices were cooked with the onions until the entire block smelled like an Ethiopian restaurant, about twenty minutes or so. Next the chicken thighs and water were added:
The sauce was stirred to combine and the pot was brought to a simmer and covered for an hour until the chicken was tender. Next we added the boiled eggs:
The wat was simmered with the lid off another twenty minutes, allowing the eggs to warm and the sauce to thicken a little.
Our Ethiopian dinner now complete, we were ready to eat. Typically, Ethiopian food is eaten spread over a large piece of injera, with pieces of the bread rolled on the side for dipping and scooping. Ours was a dinner for two so we plated individual portions, serving our doro wat and gomen atop a single injera with one on the side:
Upon tasting the sauce, we worried that our doro wat would be burn-our-faces-off spicy. Fortunately for us, the spiciness didn’t penetrate the chicken pieces or boiled eggs nearly to the extent we feared and the level of heat was manageable. The berbere wasn’t all about the heat though; the variety of spices, each of which could be tasted on its own, made the dish complex. Scooping up pieces of our stews with the injera was a novel experience and one we would like to share again.
Berbere is a spice mixture ubiquitous in Ethiopian cuisine. Each family has its own recipe, but each contains a variety of spices and ample hot chili pepper.
MAKES 1/3 CUP
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- seeds from 6 cardamom pods
- 4 cloves
- 25 dried Thai chilies (yes, 25)
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 3 Tbs paprika
First, all the whole spices were toasted in a dry skillet over medium-low heat for about four minutes until they began to release their fragrance:
Next the spices and chiles were ground in our mortar and pestle:
Finally, the onion powder and paprika were mixed in and our berbere was complete.