Monday, January 24, 2011

And on the first day, you made tibsi...

Keyih (Red) Tibsi w Beef from Bsrat M. on Vimeo.

Tibsi is the most basic and common of Eritrean dishes. For Eritrean-Americans like myself, it’s the dish that you unabashedly lie about knowing how to make. And for non-Eris out there, if you have been to an Eritrean or Ethiopian restaurant - and ate meat – you likely ate it and loved it.

Tibsi refers to a quick and simple stew that can be red (keyih) and made with awaze, a spicy red pepper paste, or white (tsa'ada) and made without it. The word tibsi comes from the Tigrinya verb "tibis" which means to pan fry or sauté. In the clip, I present red tibsi with beef - but you can use chicken, lamb, fish, shrimp, etc. I'll show some of these dishes later, as well as more vegetarian and vegan-friendly options.

Tibsi is the lazy man's tsebhi - a long-simmered stew with many of the same ingredients. I'll endeavor to make the tsebhi in a later post, but for now this trusty tibsi recipe will do just fine. You can get it done in 20-30 minute tops and skip the wait at the restaurant. Additionally, the tibsi presented here is saucier than the traditional version. I prefer it this way, but if you like your tibsi drier, I note some modifications in the recipe below.

Some points about the ingredients - Tibsi is traditionally made with tesmi (clarified, spiced butter) and awaze. These two ingredients really make the dish, so they have to be of good quality. Check the page "about the food" for more info about how to find them. If you don't have tesmi, or prefer not to use it, you can use butter or vegetable oil (I don't recommend using olive oil). And if you don't have awaze, you can just use berbere.

Tibsi is traditionally eaten with injera, our flat spongy bread. But its your stomach, so be free. You can eat it with pita bread, naan, rice, couscous - whatever floats your boat. The fabulous chef in this clip was inspired when she showed me how to load a pita pocket with tibsi and give it a good dollop of sour cream. I didn't get a pretty shot, but it tasted so gooood! 

Keyih (Red) Tibsi w/Beef
(serves 4 people)

2 lbs of beef, cubed/cut into bite-size pieces
2 red onions, finely sliced
5-6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2-3 medium tomatoes, chopped (you can use canned tomatoes but fresh is best)
1 jalepeno pepper, quartered
salt and pepper to taste
goya’s adobo all-purpose seasoning to taste (optional but don’t knock globalization!)
1 -2 heaping tablespoons of awaze
2 heaping teaspoons of tesmi

** If you want a drier tibsi, only use one tomato. Don't cover the pan and don't let the tomato break down as much, as stated in Step 3.

  1. Let the onions cook uncovered over medium heat until they soften. Stir periodically to prevent burning.
  2. Stir in 1 teaspoon of tesmi, coating the onions evenly. Add the salt and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes or until the onions caramelize and the garlic softens.
  3. Add the tomatoes and adobo all-purpose seasoning. Cook covered for about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes break down and a nice sauce forms.
  4. Add the meat and cook covered for a couple of minutes over medium-high heat.
  5. Stir in the awaze. Add enough so that the sauce turns red. Also add 1 one more teaspoon of tesmi and cook uncovered for a couple more minutes
  6. Add the jalepeno pepper and black pepper. Remove from heat.


  1. Woow, let me be the first one to say great job. Next can you teach us how to make Sabhe Derho?

  2. This is sooo awesome, b! Keep em coming!

  3. thanks guys! and yes abraham - that tsebhi dorho will be coming soon!

  4. I see Oprah! Excellent idea Biz!

  5. Bsrat, great job...I liiiike.