Between Kwakoko and Mbanga Soup in the alleys of Long Island in New York, Goat Pepper Soup or Okro stew in the Roger Miller Restaurant in Silver Spring, Maryland (USA) and Ndole in Maestro Bar Restaurant in London, Cameroonian traditional meals are conquering the palates of foreigners who eat them with relish and keep coming back for more.
However, if dishes such as Fufu and Eru, Koki, Ndole, Egusi sauce, Ekwang and Achu, amongst others, are savoured in restaurants owned by Cameroonians, they hardly go beyond these spheres to conquer other classical or non-Cameroonian restaurants. In spite of Ndole's popularity, it is still not consumed outside Cameroonian circles.
As a result, some Cameroonians have begun to ask why other African and Asian dishes are popular with foreign restaurant-goers and airline travellers. Agbor Balla, a Cameroonian working for the UN Mission in Kabul, Afghanistan, like other Cameroonians, expresses disappointment. "I think like our tourism industry, we have not done enough to project Cameroonian food. It saddens me when I see foreigners eat the Senegalese Yassa. We have not done same to put Ndole on the culinary map," he regrets.
Nda Towo, a Geneva-based Cameroonian specialised in international business marketing, believes that the recipes of Cameroonian traditional meals are complicated and take long to prepare and so can hardly be seen in classical restaurants. Nda Towo explains that Asian meals, for example, are popular because ready-to-cook ingredients and recipes are easily available in most supermarkets. "However, resources are needed to vulgarise the recipes," he says, revealing that some Cameroonians, including his spouse, Carole, are already working on similar concepts.
Laudable initiatives by other Africans have put their ethnic dishes on the global scene. On Ethiopian Airlines flights, for example, "Cloud Nine" passengers are offered Ethiopian unique pancake, 'injera'. Observers therefore wonder why Camairco on its various flights would not adopt a meal peculiar to its native Cameroon. "Instead of sandwiches, let them serve us "Puff Puff" or "Dodo" and Beans, no matter how small," once cried a passenger on an early morning Camairco flight from Yaounde to Maroua.
The stakes are high for Cameroon's traditional meals, just like its soccer, could be a major aspect of projecting cultural identity abroad.