I wasn’t sure what to do about kitfo when I arrived in Ethiopia. The guidebooks were split – some said eat away, others cautioned against this traditional meal. Why such divergent opinions? It’s more or less raw beef.
Kitfo consists of raw minced meat, which has been marinated in butter and spices. It is typically served fully raw or warmed (leb leb). The dish is rooted in Ethiopian culture and the kitfo bet (restaurant) is an important meeting place for many Ethiopians. It only took me a few weeks to work up the courage to try kitfo and I have not regretted doing so.
When at a kitfo bet, be sure to order the “special kitfo.” The meat will be accompanied by aib, a cheese spread, and gomen, cooked greens. The dish is also served with kocho, a flatbread made from the false banana tree. To add more spice to the meat, mitmita is provided on the side – this bright orange mixture is much more potent than the usual berbere. The combination of spiced raw meat and aib on a piece of kocho is a wonderful mix of textures and tastes.
The Gurage ethnic group is renowned for its kitfo. If you decide to try it, be sure to search out a Gurage restaurant, such as Sami Kitfo in Addis Ababa. At these kitfo bets, the butcher is attached to the restaurant, so you know the meat is fresh and expertly prepared. I order it “leb leb,” but even cooked kitfo – “betam leb leb” – is flavorful and worth the experience.
Would you give kitfo a try? If you don’t eat meat, would you sample the spreads and kocho?