If you're new to Ethiopian food you may want to include tibs in the dishes you try. They're easy to make, not too complicated and are made up of a few familiar flavours. Come to think of it, most if not all of the times I've had Ethiopian food there has been some variety of tibs. So what are they? Tibs refer to small pieces of steak that are cooked with niter kibbeh, an Ethiopian spiced butter. They're little bits of meaty goodness. What's not to love? I'm using ribeye steak in this recipe, but you can use just about any steak that cooks fast and has some marbling.
I prepared and served this along with doro wat which is a spicy chicken stew that has quite a bit of berbere spice in it. I opted to omit berbere spice from my tibs so there would be more contrast between my tibs and my doro wat. There are already spices in the butter that the pieces of steak are cooked in so it's not necessary. Although, if I was going to make this and serve it with other wats that didn't have much berbere spice, I would add it to this. It's just a personal preference. You may love berbere spice and want it in everything. It's your call to make.
1.5-lb(ish) of ribeye steak, cut into 1-cm(ish) cubes
2 tbsp of Niter Kibbeh
3 tbsp red onion, minced
2 tbsp green chili, minced (optional or to taste)
1 tbsp of berbere spice (also optional or to taste, see above)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Start by cutting your steak into 1-cm(ish) cubes. Keep them roughly the same size so that they cook evenly. They will shrink a bit when they cook. Tibs are meant to cook fast and be eaten easily with injera flatbread so no bigger than this:
Warm a non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the cubes of steak and a pinch of salt to the dry pan and brown them for a few minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking.
Add the minced red onion and continue to cook for a few more minutes.
Add the niter kibbeh and a generous amount of pepper. If you're using berbere spice, I would add it at this stage. Stir for another couple of minutes.
Serve with injera and enjoy. Pretty easy, right? This makes for an awesome weeknight dinner with some flatbread and salad. It also works great in a spread of Ethiopian dishes.
If you're a vegetarian you could substitute steak with firm tofu and cook it the exact same way. If you're vegan, you can use a vegan butter alternative and add some spices to boost the flavour.
The meat and butter combination certainly makes it one of the richer Ethiopian dishes. It pairs well with the natural tanginess of injera bread. If you serve it with fresh salad and other vegetables it will cut the richness and make for a more balanced dining experience.
The ease and popularity of tibs make them quite a staple in Ethiopian cuisine. There are also many variations out there but this is more or less a basic version which you can play around with.