Kitfo is a traditional Ethiopian dish made from raw beef which is minced and served with condiments including a spicy marinade rub and a form of clarified butter known as niter kebbeh. This dish is believed to have originated with the Gurage people in the southern region of Ethiopia, and it is commonly offered at Ethiopian restaurants the world over. Like other raw meat dishes, kitfo can be prepared at home, but only by people who have experience with raw meat, and who have access to a high quality butcher who can provide them with meat which is safe to eat raw.
Like the European version of this dish, steak tartare, kitfo relies on a very tender cut of meat which is as fresh as possible. The cook minces it finely, and serves it with a dish of spices including mitmita pepper and a side of niter kibbeh, which is flavored with herbs. People can eat kitfo with injera, a type of flatbread made from teff, or kocho, a thicker Ethiopian bread. Kitfo may be served with leafy greens, mild cheeses, or ensete leaves, depending on the cultural roots and preference of the cook.
Kitfo tire is traditional raw kitfo, and is what people will usually receive when they order kitfo. When they ask for the dish “leb leb,” it means that the beef will be partially cooked, but still rare. Kitfo leb leb has a slightly different texture and flavor, thanks to the cooking, and it is also warm, which some people find enjoyable, while others prefer their food totally raw with the accompanying cool temperature and distinctive texture.
Many people have food safety concerns about eating raw beef and other raw meats, as any bacteria present in the meat will be introduced into the body if the meat is left uncooked. People should only order raw beef dishes at reputable restaurants which are kept clean. In some cases, it may be possible to watch the cook prepare the dish, which can reassure diners that the meat is fresh, and that it is handled properly, kept in a refrigerated environment until it is needed, and cut on a cutting board which is maintained separately from boards used to handle cooked meats, vegetables, and other foods.
When prepared properly with good meat, kitfo can be very safe to eat. Signs that the dish may not be up to standard include meat which has begun to separate and pull apart, meat with strong discolorations, or meat with a sharp odor.