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New Year food worldwide: Ethiopian boiled chicken served with injera

Seife shows off a mesob containing food for the New Year's period at his restaurant Addis in Tokyo's Meguro Ward on Dec. 11, 2018. (Mainichi/Akihiro Ogomori)

TOKYO -- People in Ethiopia, which boasts a 3,000-year history and its own calendar, usher in the New Year in the Western calendar's September. On celebratory occasions such as the New Year, they cut up chickens and boil their meat. They also enjoy a coffee ceremony after meals.

A "mesob," a unique piece of tableware covered with a lid resembling a straw hat, was brought to the table. Within the vessel, made from knitted wheat stalks, was rolled injera, a kind of fermented bread, and boiled foods.

Doro Wat, chicken on the bone stewed with berbere, a traditional Ethiopian mixture of spices, and boiled eggs are placed at the center of injera as well as boiled lamb, while beef organs and lentils are arranged around them, complement with spinach and carrots.

Ethiopian people like meat. On celebratory occasions, a wide variety of boiled meats are placed on plates. In particular, Doro Wat is indispensable.

Seife, who runs the Ethiopian restaurant "Addis" in Tokyo's Meguro Ward, says chicken is very important in his culture.

Boiled chicken is seen placed at the center of injera on a "mesob" serving vessel and surrounded by boiled lentils, lamb, and beef organs in Tokyo's Meguro Ward on Dec. 11, 2018. (Mainichi/Akihiro Ogomori)

In Ethiopia, people buy a whole chicken, cow or sheep. Seife says the procedure for cutting up a chicken varies from home to home. It takes a long time to boil chicken until the meat becomes soft. Ethiopian households share their beef and mutton with relatives and others.

It is common in Ethiopia that an entire family gathers during the New Year's period and surrounds a mesob to enjoy food. Before eating, the oldest member of the family cuts injera into small pieces and gives them to each family member. In some cases, friends give pieces of injera to each other.

Injera is a staple food for Ethiopians. Teff, a kind of grain, is fermented and baked into what looks like thick, porous crepes. It takes about a week to make injera in Japan in winter because of the climate. Injera is sour and tastes like steamed bread. Ethiopian people wrap boiled food with injera and eat it.

-- Coffee ceremony after meals

Ethiopian people enjoy coffee after their meals. They begin a coffee ceremony by burning frankincense and roasting coffee beans. Since the ceremony takes an hour or two, people wait while eating roasted barley and chatting with each other. Women formally prepare coffee for such a ceremony.

In the ceremony, people drink three cups of coffee. The first cup is called "Abol," the second cup "Tona" and the third "Baraka." Since fresh coffee beans are used in Ethiopia, oil often floats on the surface of coffee. This is proof that the coffee tastes good.

A coffee ceremony is similar to Japan's tea ceremony in which guests enjoy tea while eating Japanese-style sweets.

An Ethiopian coffee pot is seen in Tokyo's Meguro Ward on Dec. 11, 2018. (Mainichi/Akihiro Ogomori)

Seife says the coffee must be hot and that Ethiopian people do not drink iced coffee. Ethiopian people typically mix sugar into their coffee.

Jan. 1 on the Ethiopian calendar falls on Sept. 11 on the Gregorian calendar. Specially appointed associate professor Makoto Nishi of cultural anthropology at Kyoto University, says the Ethiopian year consists of 13 months. One month is 30 days, but the last five days (six days in a leap year) out of the 365 days a year makes up the 13th and last month of each year. This year is 2011 in the Ethiopian calendar.

In Ethiopia, the rainy season ends in September and yellow maskal flowers are in full bloom. For the New Year's celebrations, children look forward to wearing newly bought festive dress and receiving monetary gifts just like "otoshidama" in Japan.

Seife, who hails from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa and has been living in Tokyo for 23 years, says sunny days continue during the Ethiopian New Year's period and people decorate their rooms with yellow flowers.

(Japanese original by Reiko Oka, Lifestyle News Department)

*Main ingredients for Ethiopian coffee (serves 6): 6 spoonful of coffee beans; 6 small cups of water

1) Place burning charcoal in an incense burner and put incense on it.

Ethiopian coffee is poured into coffee cups during a coffee ceremony in Tokyo's Meguro Ward on Dec. 11, 2018. (Mainichi/Akihiro Ogomori)

2) Roast raw coffee beans and enjoy the smell.

3) Crush roasted coffee beans in a mortar or other container.

4) Place crushed coffee beans into a ceramic pot, pour in water and boil it at low heat for about 20 minutes.

5) Lift the pot up high and slowly pour the coffee into cups. When possible, tena adam, a kind of herb, is put into the coffee.

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