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Ideas for Feeding Kids Adopted from Ethiopia

January 16, 2012 | post a comment

In continuing with our series on transitioning kids to the diet of a new culture, today I’ll share some of the information gleaned from our parent survey from parents who adopted from Ethiopia:

The transition diet is one you develop to help bridge the gap between your child’s native diet and what eventually will become his or her regular diet at home. The transition diet often includes recipes and foods from the native diet. A good way to start the transition process is to ask exactly what foods your child ate in the orphanage or foster home, using that as a base for your cooking at home. As one parent put it, “I would encourage all parents to adapt the foods they present to mimic what the child had at the orphanage during the first months home. It is an easy adaptation that parents can make to create a more familiar environment during what can be a hard transition.” It may also be helpful to watch the caregivers feed your child at least one meal before returning home. Simple things such as the temperature or texture of foods may be important to your child. One mother wrote, “Our daughter was on formula at the orphanage but they gave it to her very, very hot. It took us a while to realize she wanted everything HOT and would cry hysterically if it wasn’t hot.” Even if you don’t know exactly what your child ate previously, incorporating native foods into his or her diet is a great way to help your child transition to a new culture, as well as preserve traditions from his or her first culture.

Native Ethiopian foods that are commonly served in the orphanages are injera (a spongy bread made from teff flour) and different types of stews, including doro wat, (a spicy chicken stew) misir wat and kik wat (lentil stews), and shiro wat (chick pea flour stew). Beans, especially lentils and chick peas, are very common, as are tropical fruits such as bananas and mangos. Other foods commonly served in Ethiopian orphanages are scrambled eggs, rice, collard greens, and pasta.

Once home, every child’s food preferences will be different, and it will likely take some trial and error to discover what your child will eat and enjoy. The following food ideas may help your Ethiopian child transition into a new culture:

  • Ethiopian stews tend to be fairly spicy, so your child might enjoy some added heat. Many parents found that their newly adopted child readily ate Mexican food such as huevos rancheros and other similar foods. For huevos rancheros, simply scramble eggs and top them with cheese and a spicy salsa.
  • Red sauces are also a common favorite among Ethiopian children. Try making pasta with spaghetti sauce, or incorporating spicy red salsas into more of your dishes.
  • Pancakes are similar to injera, the staple food in Ethiopian diets, so your child might feel comfortable eating these. Try making them both savory and sweet if your child enjoys them.
  • Other excellent transition foods include fruits, potatoes, beans, rice, breads, and any type of stew.
  • It is always a good idea to learn how to make native Ethiopian dishes. Your child might remember and enjoy these foods, and as one adoptive parent put it, “these kids have so many losses (language, culture, family, country) that we should attempt to let them keep as many of their native foods as possible, especially during the transition.”


Quick Injera

This soft, spongy flatbread is used instead of utensils to scoop up stew or vegetables. It is traditionally made with teff flour, a type of grain grown in Ethiopia. You can substitute buckwheat or wheat flour for teff, which can be harder to find. Injera batter is usually prepared like a sourdough – a small portion from each batch is saved and allowed to ferment to be used in the new batter the next time it is made. This recipe uses baking soda and club soda to produce the same bubbly effect.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (a finely milled type like whole wheat pastry flour works well)
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2-3 cups club soda

Combine flour and baking soda in a large bowl.

Add club soda, stir well to form a thin batter.

Heat a large non-stick griddle or fry pan to hot. Brush lightly with oil.

Using a large cup or ladle, begin on the outside of the griddle and pour in a circle around the edges until the center is filled. Quickly tilt the griddle back and forth to fill in any holes and to spread thinly and evenly (similar to making crepes).

Cook for 1-2 minutes until surface is spongy and filled with tiny air bubbles. Do not flip the bread, just slide off griddle or out of pan onto a large plate.

Arrange the cooked injera around the outside edges of a large plate or platter so that the centers overlap. Serve immediately with a meat or vegetable stew (place the stew in the middle of the platter) or use in a salad.

Leftover injera can be torn into pieces, brushed with oil, seasoned and baked in the oven to make injera chips.

For more information on Ethiopian food and diet, including additional recipes, visit

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Thank you, TanQ! »

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