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As far as I can tell based on restaurants in the US, the cuisines of Ethiopia and Eritrea are quite similar. Are there any characteristic differences between the two, or dishes that belong strongly to one and not the other?

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I asked my friend who's written a cookbook adapting traditional ethiopian cuisine for vegetarians, here's what he told me.

Ethiopian and Eritrean food are basically identical. They were the same country until the early 90s, so that's not too surprising, I guess. In both countries, wats are common and are eaten with teff-based injera. Berbere is a primary seasoning in both countries. He said the only differences are due to climate: Eritrea is at a lower elevation, so the food there uses more warm-weather vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, etc. while Ethiopian cuisine might have more carrots, for example.

However, he did point out that "Eritrean" restaurants he'd been to in the US (specifically, in the Bay Area) were actually closer to what he would consider Ethiopian food anyway, which may explain your experience: you may be eating Ethiopian food at an Eritrean restaurant. Of course, since the cuisines are so similar, this is like going to a "Western New-Mexico" restaurant in China and being served (gasp) "Eastern New-Mexico" food--not too surprising, in any case.

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Great, thanks for the insight! One of the reasons I asked is that a commenter on my blog said that Eritrean food tends to be somewhat more influenced by Middle Eastern / Muslim traditions, but it doesn't sound like that is your friend's experience. By the way, what is the name of your friend's book, sounds like it would be of a lot of interest to me. –  Michael at Herbivoracious Sep 12 '10 at 14:27
@Michael: Unfortunately it's not yet published. The copy I have is an electronic rough draft. As my friend is heading back to Ethiopia this weekend for about three years, it may be some time before it comes out. –  kevins Sep 14 '10 at 15:34

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