Amhara Mesir Wat – Ethiopian Lentil Bowl

Mark worked in Ethiopia and his wife Kath is vegetarian so one night, when Galit and I visited them, they cooked an Ethiopian feast for us featuring both meat and “fasting food” (i.e. vegetarian). The vegetarian main was Amhara Mesir Wat – we loved it so much we asked Kath for the recipe. Not only did she give us the recipe but she also armed us with Berbere, a hot spice mix common in Ethiopia.

Back home Galit whipped Amhara Mesir Wat up as part of a lunch for guests. I love it.

Apparently this recipe is common to the Ethiopian Jews but is not unique to them.

Amhara Mesir Wat

Amhara Mesir Wat - Ethiopian Lentil Bowl

Kath Wattam
A spicy lentil dish from Ethiopia. Serve with rice or bread (traditionally Injera).
Cook Time 30 mins
Servings 8


  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 2 large onions peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika sweet or hot or Berbere powder or chilli powder
  • 1 clove of garlic peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups water
  • [Optional] curry powder


  • Sort the lentils and soak in tap water for 30 minutes. Rinse lentils in running water and drain
  • Heat the oil in a large pan
  • Salute the onion until golden
  • Add tomato paste and paprika and mix
  • Add half the water, the garlic, ginger, pepper and salt
  • Stir well
  • Add the rest of the water, stir again
  • Cover and bring to the boil
  • When the water boils, add the lentils, lower the flame and cook 20-30 minutes until the lentils soften
  • Serve hot


Berbere is a key ingredient in the cuisines of Ethiopia and Eritrea. The spice mixture usually includes chilli peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, korarima (Ethiopian cardamom or false cardamom), rue, ajwain (an annual herb in the family Apiaceae) or radhuni (a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae), nigella, and fenugreek.
Injera is an Ethiopian sourdough-risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture.
Adapted from Gad S. Sheaffer

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