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Oct 3, 2011 07:46 PM

Spiciest Ethiopian dishes?

I'm travelling to DC this weekend and have staked out a bunch of Ethiopian places I want to try (based on my searches here), but I'm travelling/dining with someone who requires high levels of spiciness. I want him to have a really good impression of Ethiopian food (we're in NYC and it's good but I don't think it impressed him) and thus the hotter the better. (yes, I know he's missing the subtleties of cuisine but I can't change that about him!)

Can anyone recommend the spiciest Ethiopian dishes? Is there a condiment which is usually added but has to be asked for specifically?

Just an aside, based on suggestions here I'm going try to go to at least one of the following: Etete, Dukem, Ethiopic, Zenebech. Can you recommend one of these that is more likely to have the spiciest?

1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

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  1. Is Queen Makeda still around? Of the several Ethiopian places I've eaten at in DC, they seem to be the easiest to talk to and ask about the dishes (and get meaningful answers).

    There are a lot of Ethiopian dishes that aren't highly spiced, and you can always ask for some extra bebere paste to heat up something that's based on it but doesn't have enough.

    You'll find that Ethiopian restaurants are a bit like Chinese restaurants in that they tend to go easy on the spices if you don't look like a native. You can always ask that it be spiced like it would be at home and they might come close to honoring your request.

    Queen Makeda
    Washington DC, Washington, DC

    1 Reply
    1. re: MikeR

      Queen Makeda is a longtime favorite of mine, but I'm not quite sure what the status is right now. Rumor has it that they are going the nightclub/event route, and that sometimes it is ticketed or maybe at times they don't offer Ethiopian food at all.

      Best to call first, although the food is not particularly spicy.

      Queen Makeda
      Washington DC, Washington, DC

    2. I have never had anything blazing hot in an Ethiopian restaurant. Shirro is probably the most potent dish you can order, so by all means get that wherever you go.

      The hottest Ethiopian dish I've had was at Eyo in Falls Church, VA. It is an appetizer of katanga which is injera soaked in shirro and then toasted. Eyo is located in a North African and Ethiopian strip mall. Not only is there a side of the shopping center that faces the street, there is a back side which is hidden from view containing even more places. Transportation here can be a bit daunting if you don't have wheels. You would have to take metro and then a 20-25 minute bus ride. Details at

      Also in the same strip mall is Abay Market, a butcher shop with a few tables specializing in tere sega. raw beef:

      The end of the article suggests you can go just about anywhere and ask, in advance, to prepare you something special.

      Abay Market
      3811 S George Mason Dr A, Falls Church, VA

      1. During our last visit to Ethiopic we mentioned that we like very spicy food. We ordered the Butcha appetizer (cold chick peas) which had good heat from a lot of jalapenos. The Sega Key Wot was also prepared as "very spicy." I know there was a third dish but I can't remember. I think the heat levels would definitely be enough for someone seeking a heat thrill. Plus, it's a cute place in a very hot area. You can make a reservation, which I would recommend for a Friday or Saturday night.

        1. I've never had anything spicy at an Ethiopian restaurant. I will give the disclaimer that I am not a big fan of Ethiopian food - I find it to be kind of like bland indian food.

          Lastly, I think your friend will be disappointed with spice levels at any restaurant here in DC. I like really spicy food, and the one dish that I found to be solidly spiced (green chili chicken at Bombay Club) was taken off their menu. El Centro has a fairly spicy habanero salsa that is pretty good and Nando's XXX hot sauce (or whatever their hottest is) is fairly spicy too, but their sauces are all super salty. Otherwise, I think he's just SOL for spicy food.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mdpilam

            While it's true that most of the restaurants in DC are quite tame, the suburbs maintain some very spicy cuisines and restaurants that can deliver on the heat.

            OT, but the ma po tofu or the ma la wontons at Great Wall are very successful dishes.

            1. re: mdpilam

              Perhaps a fair generalization, but our food at Ethiopic WAS spicy, and that was OP's request. So let's share it when it happens.