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Cameroon - Cooking and Food Edit

Overview of Cameroonian Cuisine HistoryEdit

The Republic of Cameroon is located in Central Africa. Cameroon was a German colony from the late 1870s and until the end of World War I, when it was split between the English and the French. The French Cameroon and the English Cameroon gained their independence and merged in 1961 to form The Federal Republic of Cameroon. Due to the French influences and its location on the crossroads between the north, west, and centre of the continent, the cuisine of Cameroon is one of the most varied in Africa. The French introduced bread and Italian pasta to the cuisine of Cameroon, while the English introduced European desserts. However, the staple foods in Cameroon remained traditional. They include cassava, yam, rice, plantain, Potato, maize, beans and millet. maize is the cereal that is most cherished by the indigenes, while rice consumption is less popular. The main source of protein for most inhabitants is fish, while bush meat is also often consumed. The most popular bush meat is the giant rat. Poultry and other types of meat are very expensive and they are eaten at special occasions. Because Cameroon is blessed with a very fertile soil, a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, both domestic and imported species, are grown here.

Cuisines of Cameroon Edit

Map of Cameroon

Map of Cameroon- Click to enlarge

Cameroon is divided in ten provinces (Adamaoua, Centre, Est, Extreme-Nord, Littoral, Nord, Nord-Ouest, Ouest, Sud, Sud-Ouest). There are many ethnic groups inhabiting these provinces, each with its own culture and cuisine. The most important tribes are Cameroon Highlanders, Equatorial Bantu, Kirdi, Fulani, North western Bantu and Eastern Nigritic.

In the Centre and South provinces, plantain is considered as the staple food of the populations. maize is also very popular, while rice is consumed on special occasions. The Centre and South region is particularly characterized by certain dishes like Kwem (young cassava leaves with the juice from palm nuts), Nnam ngon (marrow paste cooked with plantain leaves), Nnam owondo and Ndomba tsit (meat cooked tied in plantain leaves).

While tuber crops and plantains are staple foods in the southern part of Cameroon, cereals, millet are the staples in the northern parts. maize is consumed almost everywhere, especially in the western part of Adamaoua. In the Nord, Extreme-Nord and Adamaoua provinces, the most commonly eaten meat is Beef taken from the herds which make up the wealth of North Cameroon. The people that inhabit the northern regions also eat insects (termites, the karite caterpillars and others) and small hunting products: birds, field mice, squirrels, rats and frogs.

In the southwest province of Cameroon is characterised by Fufu and Eru from the Manyu division, Kwacoco from the Fako division, Ekwang from the Manyu Cuisine of the Cameroonian Littoral Province

In the cuisine of the Littoral Province the most important ingredients are cocoyams, cassava, beans, kalokaschia, leaves, grains and nuts. These vegetables are cultivated, but in some regions they grow spontaneously. There are many ethnic groups inhabiting this province, each with its own culture and traditional cuisine. For example, the Bassas and Bakokos’ traditional dish is palm nut (‘mbanga’) soup with fish or meat, eaten with cooked cassava rolls. The Dualas tribe prefer the bitterleaf soup, cooked with Squash grains or peanuts and eaten with boiled plantains.

The regional speciality of the Littoral Province is Ekoki. The ingredients for this dish include the Vigna beans variety and the Voandzou (Matobo) grains. This dish is served with plantains, cocoyams or kolokashia. Another speciality of this province is the Yellow Soup served with cocoyams.

Cuisine of the West Province

Fufu made using corn is the staple food of this province. Besides corn, other important ingredients in the West Province’s cuisine are tubers like yams, cocoyams, cassava and sweet potatoes. Tubers and banana are quite often cooked in a mixture with a variety of meats (goat, sheep, Pork, Beef, Chicken and bush meat). These mixtures are called Kondre and they are served with cornFufu, pounded Kolokashia or Yellow Soup. There are many leaves used as vegetables in this cuisine. Some of them are kolokashia, cocoyam, cassava and beans leaves. The usual cooking method for these leaves is mixing them with palm oil and seasoning with salt and pepper.

In some parts of the West Province (Bamboutos Division and parts of Menoua) people eat more exotic dishes. The main ingredients of these dishes include the flesh of dog, cats and snakes. The larvae of certain insects are considered delicacies.

The most important fruit cultivated here is Mbu (a purplish-blue fruit looking like a small plum). Sauces are a big part of any meal in this area. There are two kinds of sauces that are specific to the West Province. One of them is Nkui and the other is a Groundnut sauce cooked with fish or meat.

Preparation Methods for Cameroonian Cooking Edit

Because the main source of protein for most inhabitants is fish, there are lots of preparation methods for it. Fish is consumed either fresh, sun-dried or smoked. The larger fish are hacked into smaller portions and dried in the sun, flat on mats or suspended. When smoked, they are subjected to such intense heat that they are almost charred outside (sole).

Certain roots, as well as the young shoots of the Palmyra palm are popular foods in Cameroon. The preparation method for them is simple: after boiling them, they are allowed to cool and then sucked in order to quench the thirst.

After harvest, millet is stored in granaries either as ears or as grain. The grinding techniques used by families produce flour used either as it is or sieved. It is then used to make a paste which is the most common form in which millet is eaten. The pastas are made by pouring the flour in boiling water and stirring the mixture with a stick, leaving it to cook with the lid covered for a few minutes.

Special Equipment for Cameroonian Cooking Edit

To cook most dishes in the Cameroonian cuisine you don’t need any special equipment. The essential items you should have are: a baker spatula, a non-stick pan, a frying pan, a stew pan, some food storage containers, a whisk, a ladle, a garlic press, a Potato masher, some mixing bowls, a few wooden mixing spoons and some high heat turners. If you have all this equipment, you can cook almost any Cameroonian recipe.

In Cameroon, most families have mud stoves outside the house, where they cook their food. Because smoked fish is one of the country’s main dishes, in most homes you can also find a smoking stove. Another favourite way of preparing fish in Cameroon is by drying it. A special cooking tool that can be found in the Cameroonian kitchen is the biltong box, which is used for drying out large strips of fish. Fuels used for cooking in rural households in Cameroon are firewood, charcoal, kerosene, cow dung, and crop residues.

Cameroonian Food Traditions and Festivals Edit

There are many traditions and festivals held in Cameroon. The national holidays include National Day (May 20), Assumption (August 15), Christmas (December 25), New Year’s Day (January 1), National Youth Day (February 11) and Labour Day (May 1). All of these celebrations include specific food traditions. The two important religions in Cameroon are Christian and Islam. Each of them has specific traditions and celebrations. Christian holidays include Good Friday (this day is celebrated by eating hot cross buns), Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. Muslim celebrations include Id-al-Fir and Id-al-Adha.

Apart from these holidays, there are traditional festivals held by each ethnic group. For example, once every year during the dry season, Douala plays host to the Ngondo festival, a great gathering of the Sawa people where traditional dishes like Dakéré (millet flour, steamed and eaten as it is or with milk) or Brochettes (a kind of barbecued kebab made from either Chicken, Beef, or goat).

In the northern part of Cameroon, each tribe organises a grand annual festival, especially during the tourist season. Such festivals provide a suitable occasion for extensive and unparallel cultural and artistic displays, punctuated by very colourful and diversified attractions. This is the case especially with the "Festival of the Lamidat" of Ngaoundere, the "Great Cultural Week" of Garoua, the Maroua festival, not leaving out the traditional feasts of a number of sultanates and chiefdoms in the Kousseri, Mora and Mokolo regions.

People in Cameroonian Food Edit

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In the Cameroonian tradition, mostly everything related to preparing and cooking the food is done by women. They have the task of organizing the meals of the day according to their husband’s preferences and with the financial possibilities of the household. A good Cameroonian wife should know how to cook delicious meals using whatever ingredients are at hand. People of Cameroon consider food essential to hospitality and go out of their way to feed a guest, even if they have very little to offer.

There is a great difference between the dishes served in the rural parts and the urban cities of Cameroon. In the larger cities, such as Douala and Yaounde, there are many restaurants where talented chefs offer a wide variety of western dishes, including Chinese and Indian, combined with traditional dishes such as Groundnuts Sauce with Meat, Nnam Owondo (a laborious dish made from shrimps, Groundnut and pepper) or Ground plantain with Beans and palm oil. Cameroonian food includes many fruits and vegetables, as well as grilled fish, fufu, endole and cassava. Cameroon is known for having some of the best food in Central Africa. Sauces are usually accompanied by rice or a thick mashed potato-like substance that comes in three main forms: couscous, pae, or fufu, any of which can be made from rice, corn, manioc, plantains, or bananas.

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