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Thursday, January 6, 2022

Welcome Africa Episode 4 ( Food & Drink)

Give us good food and drink and we feel loved. This line sums up the Cameroonian joie de vivre and almost epicurean delight over good food and drink.

A Cameroonian diplomat told me once, (4,363km from home) that his May 20 (Cameroon National Day) galas were highly solicited by diplomats because of the cuisine. So, if you are arriving Cameroon for the first time, I can confidently say keep your mind open and enjoy a unique culinary journey. In the Sahel, Forest, Grassfields and Coastal cultural zones your palate will be enchanted.

The cosmopolitan cities of Yaoundé and Douala offer a wide-range of modern and traditional cuisine, from the street corner to the plush city-centre restaurants and hotels. At sunset expect some of the best grills and spices the African continent can provide. Most of the more modern restaurants offer takeaway services and serve food till late at night. 
My Advice: Try all the local foods you can, avoid too spicy foods.

Please give me your hand let's walk you through some of the kitchen magic we possess. In Yaoundé and most of the Centre and South regions expect some exotic local foods from the forest people like Ntuba, pounded ripe or half ripe plantains, a delicacy eaten with Ndomba a traditional sauce cooked in leaves with catfish, chicken, pork or viper.

The Okok, (also known as funbwa) a combination of eru vegetable leaves mixed in groundnut paste, mostly cooked with smoked fish and eaten with cassava. 

My advice: In Yaounde you can get a vast array of local and modern foods. Be adventurous.

My recommendations: O’haira (Near Mahima), Chez Tchakounte (Tsinga Yaounde), Manuba (Nouvelle Route Bastos), Fines Epices (Elig-Edzoa), Cloud 9 Rooftop (Tamtam Weekend), Mabih (Mini-Ferme), Alvy’s Concept (Kondengui), Chez Bobo (Opp Carrefour Regie), Tchop et Yamo, White House (Bastos), All-Star, Le Municipal.

Douala the heartland of Sawa cuisine will blow your mind away with Ndolé a delicacy of groundnut stew made with an abundance of vegetables (bitter leaves). Shrimps or prawns are perhaps the icing on the cake in this dish. You can eat it with plantains, bobolo (a Cameroonian dish made of fermented ground cassava and wrapped in leaves).

If you can once you arrive Douala rush to Youpwe, a rustic wharf notorious for its fresh fish from the Atlantic and nearby fishing villages. The memorable taste of smoky spicy grilled fish on your fingertip’s envelopes you in a cocoon of home- cooked goodness. Typically sold on the streets, this is the quintessential Cameroonian meal. 

Mbongo Tchobi is a spicy black stew typically eaten by the Bassa people of Cameroon. The key ingredient is the intensely aromatic mbongo spice, from which the stew derives its name.

My advice: the major cities have food from across the country, this is the place for fresh fish.

My recommendations: White House (Akwa), Tchoo Space (Opp Tradex Bonamoussadi), Base Navale ( After Rabingha hotel), Aqua Marina hotel, Cozy O (Denver, Bonamoussadi), Breeze Restau (near Hotel le Nde), Chez Nina ( Near Oil Libya Bonapriso), Ni’s Restaurant (Petit Terrain, Bonamoussadi)

Limbe and Buea are the home of eru! The irresistible vegetable sauce, cooked with cow beef, skin (kanda), dried fish, cray fish, palm oil, Spinach (water leaves) to soften the shredded eru makes the mouth watery after each mouthful. It is eaten with water fufu (made from fermented grated cassava) and sometimes garri. 
Down Beach in Limbe, like Youpwe in Douala will also tempt you with Ocean marvels.

My advice: Most hotel chefs are good, if you can try some restaurants

My recommendations: Prive Lounge (Opp Afriland Bank), Municipal (Karata), Area Code, Abane (Newtown), Eco west (Newtown)

The culinary red carpet will be rolled out to you in the West region. Sharing a meal, is the ultimate act of brotherhood in the grassfields. This has inspired several fireplace menus today exported to cities across the world. Achu and yellow soup wins the popularity contest in the grassfields. This pounded cocoyam menu intrigues by its presentation and fascinates even more by its flavour.

The Djapche of Bamum origin is a mix of succulent vegetables, squashed grains, dried fish and other distinct spices. A marvel for the palate, it is eaten with pounded corn.

My advice: Pepper is a key spice, yet quite delicate. Handle it with care.

My recommendations: Big man launch - (Marché B),  La térasse, Old School

In the North rice or corn fufu (couscous) with vegetable soup (Lalo, baobab or okro) is a must. In a region popular for its cattle fields there is a lot of beef to go around. Grilled beef known here as bifteck with options including entrails is the absolute street food.
You will equally experience some striking dairy desserts in Garoua, inspired by the region’s long grazing history. 
My recommendations: Restaurant la marquise (Roumde), Le noumou ( Yelwa), Restaurant du centre (MTN)