Doro Wat


I first discovered Massawa when I worked at Planned Parenthood decades ago and a bunch of us got together after work—a mix of card carrying liberals, closet socialists, all feminists—washed down some spicy Doro Wat with Ngoma.  I know I just said a couple words there you may have never heard of but trust me when I tell you that hot, spicy Ethiopian food eaten without utensils and only the aid of spongy bread injera to shovel it all into your mouth, and then grasping a now slippery beer bottle with greasy fingers is probably one of the richer and more memorable food experiences you’ll ever have.  I took Pru to Massawa on one of our first dates and after his initial hesitation and recounting that awful (awfully funny, to be specific) line from When Harry Met Sally about ordering empty plates at an Ethiopian restaurant, he thoroughly enjoyed his first foray into Ethiopian food.

Moment of silence as we mourn the loss of this now defunct Ethiopian eatery…

massawaHere we are, 25 years later and I tried my hand at the spicy chicken stew Doro Wat, and it was actually fairly easy to make.  The most exotic thing about it is the spicy berbere spice blend which you can either buy or prepare yourself.  If you make it yourself, you can control the spiciness because Ethiopian food is notoriously numbingly spicy.  I made my own.

  • 2 ½ to 3 lbs chicken thighs and legs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups yellow onions finely minced to a chunky puree in food processor
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
  • ¼ cup berbere (see recipe below)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup garbanzo beans
  1. Place the chicken pieces in a bowl and pour lemon juice over. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan or dutch oven.  Brown chicken pieces turning over twice to ensure it’s browned on all sides.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  3. In the same pan, add the onions and saute, covered, over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon butter and continue to saute, covered, for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the berbere and the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter and saute, covered, over low heat for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the browned chicken, garbanzo beans and broth, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Adjust the seasonings, adding more berbere according to heat preference.
  8. Serve hot with injera bread or rice.

Berbere spice, adapted from The Daring Gourmet

  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 whole allspice berries
  • Seeds of 4 green cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 5 dried red chilies, seeded, broken into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  1. In a heavy skillet over high heat, toast the whole spices (seeds) and chilies, shaking the pan regularly to prevent scorching, until very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.
  2. Grind the cooled spices in a spice or coffee grinder. Add all remaining ground spices and salt and grind everything together.
  3. Store in an airtight container in a dark place.



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