Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Nov 5, 2010 03:21 PM

Ethiopian Food

E.F. is one of my most favorite foods and we are fortunate to live near D.C., the capitol of Ethiopian food.The last 2 out of 3 times I ate at an Ethiopian restaurant (2 different ones) I had a very bad allergic reaction. I am not allergic to any foods; I have a fairly cast iron stomach and a leather mouth and can tolerate any degree of heat,. Both times I had hives, welts all over my body and had to go to the E.R. Now I have an emergency Epi pen. Who wants to die eating.?.. let me rephrase that. I don't want to stop eating E.F. but am starting to get concerned. Anyone have any ideas about this??, Which spices could be a problem? How to re-enter? my email is MEDMRL@AOL.COM not MEDMTL

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I also absolutely ♥♥♥ Ethiopian food...only had it once in San Francisco (New Eritrea restaurant, shameless plug) this past June and was blown away by the flavors, spices, injera, oooooh-aaaah! But what totally exhilarated me was their homemade Berbere paste, which my son knew to ask for, which our server loved! So, what's different about Ethiopian foods? To me, they are distinct because of the Berbere maybe you are allergic to one of those ingredients? That's all I can think of...have you ever had any food allergies in the past?

    1. I too share a love for Ethiopian food, so much that I make my own spiced butter to make dishes at home. As far as your allergies, can you use a system of elimination? Depending on what your local resources are, I'd try to buy separate ingredients-injera, berbere blend, perhaps even the niter kebbeh (spiced butter) and taste each element on its own and see how you react. Berbere is a combination of a multitude of spices, so that definitely can be the culprit. I live near Chicago so I'm able to buy all these ready-made, but I understand not everyone is so lucky! Good luck; I'd be devastated if I had to cease my bi-weekly Ethiopian food binges.

      1. unfortunately it's not unusual to develop food allergies in adulthood. i have to wonder if you were reacting to cooking oil as opposed to a spice or herb - sesame oil is relatively common in Ethiopian restaurants...

        2 Replies
        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          That's interesting, I've never encountered sesame oil at the Ethiopian restaurants that I've gone to, nor have I ever seen it in recipes. I'll ask the next time I'm at one, it's a good thing to be aware of.

          1. re: twj

            actually, Ethiopia produces an appreciable chunk of the world's sesame seeds, so it's not all that surprising. i know the seeds aren't necessarily a staple of the indigenous cuisine, but from what i've seen, more Ethiopian restaurants here in the US are using the oil these days in addition to safflower.

            do you happen to have any tahini or sesame seeds at home? you could try eating a *teeny* bit (with your Epi Pen at the ready!) to see if you have a reaction.

        2. If I had your problem, I would start by writing down the all of the foods I ate both times that brought on the adverse reaction. Then check with the chefs of both restaurants to see if there is a single common ingredient. My guess is there will be, or there could be more than one common ingredient, though you may not be allergic to all of them. It may or may not be a spice. It could be a rare vegetable you don't eat regularly. All sorts of possibilities. But figuring out what the common ingredient is will give a strong guide on what to avoid. Then, if you want to do a challenge to see if that particular ingredient truly is the culprit, eat a very small amount, keep your epi-pen handy, and do it with take-out in the ER parking lot. Knowing what to avoid in the future is the name of the game. Good luck!

          ADDENDUM: If it turns out that the common ingredient is a spice blend, you need to know that, but you can also find out what specific spices are in the blend and do a challenge with each one to know which specific spice you are allergic to. It's common for one particular spice to be used in many blends, but the quantity may be different.

          1. Gosh, my one memory of Ethiopian food always conjures up the same two images. The first image is the injera accompanying a huge assortment of food, and the second image (for me) was their dripping bottles of ice cold mead. I was so impressed with their mead that I later asked to purchase two bottles to take home. I can't say I've ever returned to sample Ethiopian food again, but I have drank mead on more than one occasion since then. For the OP, I would be very cautious with re-entry, and I would question whether it's really worth the health risk. I know foods can be tempting to a lot of us, but just be extra cautious. Wish I could be of more help.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Cheese Boy

              I'm with Cheese Boy. Please be careful. I'd do a heck of a study, make a list, and follow the guidance of an allergist. GHG has a point about the oils, too. If you've developed a sesame sensitivity or the like, you should know.