Birkuta (ብርኩታ in Tigrigna) is a desert food for the cowboy or salt merchants in Tigrai, prepare with wheat, sorghum, or other cereals flours kneaded to a semi-solid state and covered onto a previously heated round stone and baked on fire. It is best served with milk or any related stew or soup. Once baked perfectly, Birkuta can stay longer without expiring, sometimes for months.

As a young cowboy living away from home, eating your mother’s fresh food is a mere wish you can only tell to the shooting stars.

But like a fireman trains his kids innately on how to survive, the cowboy takes survival lessons from his seniors of all the hunger and beasts.

Taking up all the courage and determination that emanated from the harsh life of the wild jungle, I found myself perfect in preparing Birkuta (ብርኩታ). I use to believe Birkuta was unique among the lowlands of Adiabo in particular and western and nothwestern Tigrai in general.

Later on in life, when I joined Kellamino, I learned about the life of Arho’s (ኣርሆቶት). They live a very difficult life like us, the cowboys in my area, but on the other side of Tigrai and for a completely different purpose.

The Arho’s are salt traders who cross the most hostile desert between Afar and Tigrai. They transport blocks of salts mined in the Danakil Depression, with their caravans. These journeys through the lowest point on Earth, and hence the hottest place, take several days. It becomes apparent for them to prepare their own food throughout their travels. That food must not expire so often over the high temperature and long days of the journey. Birkuta, once again, fits in here.

Birkuta is also common among the Irob communities in Eastern Tigrai, Gash Barka, and Seraye of Eritrea.

You may wonder why Birkuta is related to travel, Easy. Birkuta has a longer expire date and is simple to pack (handle). This is due to its making. It takes too much fire and heat, both from in and outside, to prepare, making it a concrete of foodstuff.

በራሕለ ዓድኹም ወሰን ባሕሪ
ብርኩታ ቀለብኩም ተረፍ ጓህሪ

A poetic phrase common among the traditional Tigrean songs.

Birkuta is best taken with milk. Growing up eating Birkuta, you’ve too much energy for wrestling and surviving all the hostility in the wild. That’s another reason why wrestling is common among the cowboys and the Arho’s.

The following video on how Birkuta is prepared in Desa’a was produced by RaRa Media. Some of the above photos were also screenshots from the video.