Sik Sik Wat


In Ethiopia, the word wat is basically the word for stew. But this is no ordinary stew. Ethiopian wats, no matter what meat is used, whether cooked or raw, are spicy, saucy stews of vibrant color and endless flavors.

Two main seasoning ingredients must be prepared first before following through with a wat. One is Berberé, a rich paprika-based mixture, and niter kebbeh, a fragrant infused clarified butter.

This stew is a classic example of a wat. I hope you get a chance to make it! The recipe is from African Cooking, one of many of a Foods of the World series from Time Life.

Sik Sik Wat
Beef Stewed in Red Pepper Sauce
To serve 6 to 8

2 cups finely chopped onions
1/3 cup niter kibbeh
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger root
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons berberé
2/3 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup water
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped and puréed through a food mill (I used a teaspoon of tomato paste)
2 teaspoons salt
3 pounds lean boneless beef, preferably chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy 4- to 5- quart enameled casserole, cook the onions over moderate heat for 5 or 6 minutes, until they are soft and dry. Don’t let them burn. Stir in the niter kebbeh and, when it begins to splutter, add the garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg, stirring well after each addition.

Add the paprika and berberé, and stir over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the wine, water, pureed tomato and salt, and bring the liquid to a boil.

Add the beef cubes and turn them about with a spoon until they are evenly coated with the sauce.

Then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan partially and simmer the beef for about 1 1/2 hours. Sprinkle the wat with a few grindings of pepper and taste for seasoning.

Sik sik wat is traditionally accompanied by injera or yewollo ambasha, but may also be eaten with Arab-style flat bread or hot boiled rice. Below left, injera, below right, yewollo ambasha.

Plain yoghurt may be served with the wat from a separate bowl.

65 thoughts on “Sik Sik Wat

  1. Cooked with love and spices. Sounds delicious. I would love to see a photo shot of all of your spices. I think you are like me as we cook so many international cuisines I essentially I have and entire large cabinet dedicated to spices and herbs and condiments.

    • I have two drawers, a spice cabinet, and a pantry with spices and whatnot. It’s crazy! Then two cupboards with bottles and jars of stuff, then there’s the refrigerator…..

  2. We had our first Ethipoian meal last week Mimi, thanks for sparking our interest! We loved every mouthful. I’ll try this soon. We can buy berbere dry spice mix in good food outlets, in Australia, or online from Herbies. Look forward to the injera recipe. 😃

  3. I’ve been waiting to see what you were going to do with your spice mix! That’s so funny about your jars and spice cabinets. I just had to buy a bunch of jars to catch the overflow. Next I’d love to see you try your hand at that wonderful bread that goes with it!

    • There’s some preparation involved if you make it all from scratch. So worth it, but I’m sure there are good recipes out there that use shortcuts. Hope you get to try it some time!

  4. Sounds really tasty, Mimi. I’m a big fan of Ethiopian food, though since we’re lucky to have lots of Ethiopian restaurants in our area, I’ve never attempted to make it at home. Doesn’t sound too terribly difficult, though so I may give it a go!

    • It’s no different than any other kind of cooking of course, just a matter of having the ingredients on hand. But, if you have Ethiopian restaurants nearby, I don’t blame you for taking advantage of those!!!

  5. Love Ethipoian food, although I never cook it — one of those restaurant things for me. This looks terrific — I should try this! :-) Thanks.

  6. I know this took a couple of days to get it made but totally worth it. Just looking at your ingredient list, this sounds so delicious and just packed with flavor. I bet it was even tastier the next day, if you actually had any leftovers. LOL

    • Those were the first cookbooks I learned from, as I owned no others! They were a gift from my mother, thank goodness. Africa has so many varied cuisines. I’ve barely made a dent!

  7. Other than doro wat, I have only made vegetable stews for my Ethiopian meals. This sik sik wat looks truly amazing, and I already have the berberé and niter kebbeh on hand from a fairly recent dinner. Will be making this soon -perhaps for Thanksgiving!

    • If you love doro wat, there’s nothing not to love here. I though about even including some hard boiled eggs with this. It’s such a fun addition.

  8. I adore Ethiopian stews! They’re all so unique, fragrant, bursting with flavor, and all so deeply comforting. It’s marvelous that so much of it is already vegan by default. You can never go wrong with those split peas, collard greens, or potatoes. I’ve been meaning to try the beef preparations with Impossible grounds to see what I’ve been missing.

  9. I love a good stew, and the spices in this one are just so different to what I normally use, except perhaps in a tagine. Ethopian cuisine is very exciting I must say, can’t wait to try this soon. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • The flavors of Ethiopian cuisine are so unique and wonderful. If you’ve been to an Ethiopian restaurant, you already know what I mean.

  10. Ok, so now my mouth is watering! Thank you for making this spiced dish seem approachable. When my husband and I visited NY a couple years ago, we had occasion to visit the Red Rooster, owned by celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson and many of his menu items were seasoned with the flavors of Ethiopia where he was born. I loved it, but had no idea where to begin. I even bought some berbere spice blend at our farmers market, but still I have hesitated. Thanks for giving me a head start!!

    • That’s really exciting that you went to Red Rooster! We’ve never ventured that far from where my daughter lives now in Brooklyn, but I’d love to. Because of how I was introduced to the cuisine, I make everything from scratch. You should look up some more “modernized” recipes online that use berbere spice blend in place of the paste that I make. I don’t know what substitutes for the spiced butter, but probably butter and more spices! The flavors of Ethiopia are incredible.

  11. I love Ethiopian foods, and stews most of all. I’ve never made anything like it, but I’ve been to some very good Ethiopian restaurants. Any kind of bread served with a stew is my kind of thing, no matter what culture it comes from.

    • I don’t have any Ethiopian restaurants where I live, so unless I’m traveling, I have to make it myself. My husband is the stew-with-bread guy!

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