My vegan version of the classic Ethiopian favorite Doro Wat is a labor of love unlike the more minimalist recipes I’ve shared recently. It took me upwards of two hours to put together which, to a speed-seeking cook like me, is an eternity and an indulgence.
But this is an indulgence I had long craved. There’s something about the very look of this ravishing, flaming-red dish that stokes my appetite. Doro Wat is often called Ethiopia’s national dish and just inhaling its spice-rich aroma reveals just why it’s so popular. Traditionally it’s made with chicken, but it’s not a hard dish to veganize because all those spices and flavors in there are perfect with “meaty” vegetables like mushrooms or eggplants.
Cooking Ethiopian food is always a pleasant revelation to me, both as a cook and as someone who primarily cooks Indian food. That’s because Ethiopian cuisine couldn’t be more similar to Indian cuisine in its use of spices, yet it couldn’t be more different in technique, and the end results are worlds apart. To put it more simply, an Indian curry contains a lot of the same spices and ingredients that a Doro Wat does, but because you cook them so differently they taste vastly different.
Doro Wat has two flavor building blocks: niter kibbeh, which is butter spiced with garlic, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon, and berbere, a powdered mix of chillies and more spices (there are paste versions of this too). For the niter kibbeh, I swapped the butter with some heart-healthy olive oil. Don’t try to take a short cut and leave out either the niter kibbeh or the berbere because your Doro Wat will then taste like its missing something, which is never a kind thing to do to your tastebuds.
The most tedious part of this recipe was, to me, roasting a pile of onions to a rich brown color with the help of nothing but a little water– it took over an hour. I toned down the heat in this dish because Desi, despite his Indian tastebuds, cannot tolerate too much chilli. If you are a heat-seeker, go ahead and use more red chillies.
Here’s the recipe, just in time for your weekend. Enjoy, all!
Doro Wat, Vegan
(Serves 8-10 people)
For the Niter Kibbeh:
Combine in a saucepan:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced onions
1-inch piece of ginger, grated or minced
3 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1-inch piece cinnamon stick
1 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
3 cloves of green cardamom
Place the saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, reduce heat and let the oil simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Pass through a sieve and reserve the oil.
For the Berbere:
Place in a blender or spice grinder:
1/4 cup of dry, red chillies
1 tbsp paprika
1-inch stick cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger powder
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
2 berries of allspice
1 tsp grated nutmeg
Process to a fine powder and set aside.
1 8-oz package of tempeh, cubed and sprinkled with juice of half a lemon (The tempeh is optional. I just used this for extra protein and it was delicious, but just use veggies if you can’t find this or don’t want to use it)
1 1/2 pounds of crimini or portabella mushrooms, halved or quartered if large (eggplant and potatoes would also be great in this dish)
3 medium onions, finely chopped
1 six-ounce can of tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine (optional)
1 tbsp grated garlic
1 tbsp grated ginger
Heat a large saucepan. Add the onions and stir. When the onions start looking dry, add 1/4 cup of water and cook until the mixture dries up. Keep adding a couple of tablespoons of water each time the onions dry and start to stick, stirring at frequent intervals, until the onions become golden-brown. Like I said earlier, this took me more than an hour on medium heat, but don’t skip this step and hurry to add other ingredients because the roasted onions add a lot of flavor.
Now add the tomato paste, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the Berbere, 1/2 cup of water, and the Niter Kibbeh. Stir to mix and bring the mixture to a boil.
Add the mushrooms and tempeh and stir well. Bring the sauce to a boil (add more water if the mixture is very dry), slap a lid on, lower the heat to simmer, and let the mixture cook about 15-20 minutes.
Add the white wine, if you’re using it, and simmer for another 10 minutes. If you’re not adding wine, skip this step.
Serve hot over rice or with some crusty bread. Tip: This tastes even better when you’ve allowed it to stand for a few hours, or overnight, to let the flavors meld together.