Ethiopian and Indian Food: An Interconnected History

Sambusa and samosa. Injera and appam. Misir wot and dal. How over 2,000 years of trade shaped the cuisines of the two ancient cultures.

GettyImages-491081160 Ethiopian Food
red lentils, brown lentils, jalapeños, beets, collard greens, potatoes, carrots, azifa, cabbage, green beans, split peas served with injera at Bete Ethiopian Cuisine and Cafe, Silver Spring (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Mehr Singh


February 6, 2023


10 min

On every corner of the internet, South Asians cannot help but wax poetic about Ethiopian food — most notably, how it tastes so familiar. Meanwhile, tourists in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, are often greeted with “namaste, namaste!” as they walk through the bustling Merkato. Ethiopian children can easily distinguish between Shah Rukh and Salman Khan. Addis Ababa also boasts over two dozen Indian restaurants with names such as Hind Addis Bar and Partap Chicken Shop. 

With Ethiopian and Indian fare, a blind tasting would leave even chefs unable to tell certain dishes apart. Sambusa is like samosa. Injera is like appam. Misir wot is like dal. Cic weth is like chana dal. Kik alicha is like matar ki dal. Niter kibbeh — a spiced, clarified butter similar to ghee — lends richness. Even the griddles that injera and appam are made on are similar. The list goes on. 

So, how did the two vastly different nations, over 2,600 miles apart, come to share not only their love for the Kings of Bollywood, but also their food?

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