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.

By Published On: November 10th, 202167 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

67 Comments

  1. thesinglegourmetandtraveller April 1, 2013 at 10:41 AM - Reply

    This sounds delicious. I love all the spices in it.

    • chef mimi April 1, 2013 at 11:01 AM - Reply

      It’s a really fragrant combination of spices.

  2. Darya April 1, 2013 at 11:12 AM - Reply

    Oh so much flavor in there! I can imagine the smell in your kitchen. I love this kind of dish!

    • chef mimi April 1, 2013 at 12:20 PM - Reply

      Oh yeah, the whole house smelled. My husband knew what I’d made when he came home!!!

  3. trixfred30 April 1, 2013 at 11:43 AM - Reply

    Love the look of that – really rich and delicious – where’s the food ring!?

  4. richardmcgary April 1, 2013 at 3:13 PM - Reply

    This is my kind of stew. I can imagine the flavors of this dish. Nicely done.

    • chef mimi April 1, 2013 at 7:42 PM - Reply

      Thank you! It’s a very unique flavour profile!

  5. My Italian Smörgåsbord April 1, 2013 at 3:31 PM - Reply

    love it! love anything ethiopian… do you think it i possible to buy berbere’ rather than making it? loved the post on the making but I can’t wait to try the stew. and your new layout is gorgeous!!!

    • chef mimi April 1, 2013 at 5:11 PM - Reply

      I have seen it in a jar so that’s probably the berbere paste, and I know the spices are available as a mixture as well. thanks!!

  6. yummychunklet April 1, 2013 at 6:50 PM - Reply

    Ooh, how delicious!

  7. Michelle April 1, 2013 at 7:53 PM - Reply

    Mimi, you’re rocking the Ethiopian food—looks so delicious!

    • chef mimi April 1, 2013 at 8:56 PM - Reply

      Thanks Michelle! But sadly, it’s not as cool as nutlets…..

  8. Bam's Kitchen (@bamskitchen) April 1, 2013 at 8:22 PM - Reply

    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.

    • chef mimi April 1, 2013 at 8:56 PM - Reply

      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…..

  9. ladyredspecs April 1, 2013 at 9:51 PM - Reply

    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. 😃

  10. Chef Randall April 1, 2013 at 11:02 PM - Reply

    Your Wat looks so delectable Chef Mimi. I like you photography as well.

    Thanks for sharing. Hope you will visit Fun with Food: http://www.savorthefood.com/home.

    Chef Randall
    http://www.savorthefood.com

  11. ChgoJohn April 1, 2013 at 11:27 PM - Reply

    With that list of ingredients, this must be a very flavorful stew.

    • chef mimi April 2, 2013 at 8:18 AM - Reply

      The smells and flavors are so unique. That’s all I can say.

  12. abrooke65 April 1, 2013 at 11:49 PM - Reply

    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!

    • chef mimi April 2, 2013 at 8:19 AM - Reply

      That’s coming in a few days!!! I’m loving getting back into this because I haven’t made Ethiopian food in so long, and I missed it!!!

  13. gotasté April 2, 2013 at 6:24 AM - Reply

    I love spicy stew and this pot looks just perfect to go with any staple. Vibrant color too!

    • chef mimi April 2, 2013 at 8:19 AM - Reply

      It really is pretty, and delicious. I wish my pictures could have shown it more.

  14. theglobalgarnishgeek April 2, 2013 at 8:23 AM - Reply

    Thanks for the inspiration. I’ve always loved Ethiopian food, but haven’t made it myself. I think I’ll start with this one….

    • chef mimi April 2, 2013 at 11:44 AM - Reply

      This is a good recipe, and there will be a Doro Wat coming soon, which is a chicken and hard boiled egg wat.

  15. myhomefoodthatsamore April 2, 2013 at 9:18 AM - Reply

    Looks amazing … am sure the scents were heady too! Thank you for inspiring us to try new cuisines … you make it seem so easy!

    • chef mimi April 2, 2013 at 11:43 AM - Reply

      Thank you! Just because it’s a different cuisine, doesn’t mean the techniques are different. It’s just cooking!

  16. Travel Gourmet November 10, 2021 at 6:19 AM - Reply

    I’ve never eaten Ethiopian food but am really enjoying being introduced to it by your latest posts. This sounds delicious.

    • chef mimi November 10, 2021 at 8:00 AM - Reply

      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!

  17. Angela November 10, 2021 at 7:03 AM - Reply

    This looks and sounds fabulous.

    • chef mimi November 10, 2021 at 7:59 AM - Reply

      It’s so good! But I love Ethiopian dishes.

  18. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen November 10, 2021 at 8:12 AM - Reply

    Mimi, I can smell those marvelous spices all the way here! Love your Ethiopian cooking adventures!

    • chef mimi November 10, 2021 at 10:17 AM - Reply

      Oh I know…. such wonderful smells! Better than incense!

  19. Frank November 10, 2021 at 8:55 AM - Reply

    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!

    • chef mimi November 10, 2021 at 10:17 AM - Reply

      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!!!

  20. kitchenriffs November 10, 2021 at 9:45 AM - Reply

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

    • chef mimi November 10, 2021 at 10:16 AM - Reply

      If I had an Ethiopian restaurant nearby, I’d go all the time! Lucky you!

  21. cookingwithauntjuju.com November 10, 2021 at 2:30 PM - Reply

    I’m not into Ethiopian cuisine but I always love a good stew!

    • chef mimi November 11, 2021 at 6:44 AM - Reply

      And that’s exactly what this is – a beef stew with tons of flavor!

  22. Debra November 10, 2021 at 4:58 PM - Reply

    I think I can smell the aroma right through the beautiful photos, Mimi. This recipe is tantalizing!

    • chef mimi November 11, 2021 at 6:43 AM - Reply

      Oh, well that is a compliment!

  23. Healthy World Cuisine November 10, 2021 at 7:51 PM - Reply

    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

    • chef mimi November 11, 2021 at 6:43 AM - Reply

      Thanks… the seasoning mixtures take some time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! such fabulous flavors.

  24. Cynthia | What A Girl Eats November 10, 2021 at 8:39 PM - Reply

    Love it Mimi! I have the whole set of the Time-Life cookbooks (yes, I’m that old). I cook from them often. Such a great resource. I’ll have to check out the african one. I took a class in North African cuisine in culinary school.

    • chef mimi November 11, 2021 at 6:41 AM - Reply

      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!

  25. David Scott Allen November 11, 2021 at 7:58 AM - Reply

    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!

    • chef mimi November 12, 2021 at 6:10 AM - Reply

      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.

  26. Raymund November 11, 2021 at 2:27 PM - Reply

    This musht be really tasty, you certainly sparked my interest in this Ethiopian cuisine.

    • chef mimi November 12, 2021 at 6:09 AM - Reply

      I hope you get a chance to go to an Ethiopian restaurant some time. It’s truly life-changing!

  27. Hannah Kaminsky November 12, 2021 at 3:41 PM - Reply

    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.

  28. Pauline November 12, 2021 at 8:44 PM - Reply

    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.

    • chef mimi November 13, 2021 at 9:39 AM - Reply

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

  29. thatskinnychickcanbake November 14, 2021 at 8:06 AM - Reply

    I’ve never heard of this, but we’ve eaten at an Ethiopean restaurant in Vancouver and enjoyed the cuisine, so I bet we’d love your recipe.

    • chef mimi November 14, 2021 at 11:00 AM - Reply

      If you enjoyed the flavors, you’d love Ethiopian recipes!

  30. terrie gura November 14, 2021 at 10:27 AM - Reply

    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!!

    • chef mimi November 14, 2021 at 11:00 AM - Reply

      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.

  31. Kelly | Foodtasia November 14, 2021 at 9:11 PM - Reply

    Mimi, this looks wonderful! I enjoy making new dishes for my family and they would surely love this!

  32. Tandy | Lavender and Lime November 15, 2021 at 12:35 AM - Reply

    I was clearing up my ‘to make’ recipe file on Saturday and came across your recipe for niter kebbeh. Now I have a second reason to make it. This looks delicious.

    • chef mimi November 15, 2021 at 7:42 AM - Reply

      I’ve actually used the butter for other purposes – it’s not just for Ethiopian food in my book!

  33. neil@neilshealthymeals.com November 15, 2021 at 5:06 AM - Reply

    Lynne and I enjoyed sharing an Ethiopian stew in an Ethiopian restaurant in Frankfurt of all places! Their cooking is amazing. I’ve never tried cooking anything Ethiopian myself though. This looks lovely!

    • chef mimi November 15, 2021 at 7:41 AM - Reply

      Interesting! Well, wherever you can find it, it’s always delicious and so unique!

  34. Jeff the Chef November 15, 2021 at 7:12 AM - Reply

    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.

    • chef mimi November 15, 2021 at 7:40 AM - Reply

      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!

  35. Eddie September 30, 2022 at 8:02 AM - Reply

    I am trying making this for the first time this weekend, already made Berbere, I’ll let you know how I get on! : )

    • Chef Mimi September 30, 2022 at 8:14 AM - Reply

      Oh fabulous! You’re going to love it!

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