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Kondre and Ndole – Cameroon National Dish – Day 56/Dish 29

March 5, 2010

Hello Adventurers!  After a difficult but hopeful stop in Cambodia where we revisited the recent history of the Khmer Rouge and sampled the delicious Amok Trey, we are setting sail again back to the west coast of Africa to what is probably the most diverse place both ethno-geographically and from a culinary standpoint on the African Continent. 

Cameroon is located on the west central portion of Africa and borders the Bight of Binny along the Atlantic Coast.  Neighbors starting from the northwest and circling the country clockwise include Nigeria, Chad, The Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.  We get there by once again rounding the Cape of Good Hope and sailing north till we reach the verdant shores of Cameroon where we land at Douala the largest city.  If you could gaze out into the sea far enough, you would see the beautiful but underdeveloped volcanic island nation of Sao Tome and Principe in the distance while closer into shore lies Malabo Island and Santo Antonio Island.   

Cameroon is so diverse in its climate and territory that it is often called “Africa in miniature”, as it represents nearly all geographic types found in the continent.  From grasslands to mountains to deserts to coastal tropics, Cameroon has it all and it is reflected in the local peoples, languages and food choices found here.

Cameroon was first named by the Portuguese who found plentiful Prawns in the Wouri River which they renamed the Rio De Cameroes (river of shrimp).  Seafood still makes up a large part of the diet of Cameroons as beef and other proteins are more expensive. 

Unlike many of its neighbors, Cameroon is relatively stable and overall financially prosperous.  That being said, there are many people who make a living as subsistence farmers and live in poverty.  Corruption is widespread and power is consolidated firmly in the hands of its leaders.  Unfortunately this is a story often repeated throughout the world and in particular in poverty ridden areas such as Africa. 

There are 54 countries in Africa making it the largest continent by number of countries on the planet.  The group Transparency International has published a list of the countries ranked from least corrupt (number 1) to most corrupt which you can view here.  Cameroon came in at number 141 out of 180 ranked countries as of 2008. However in lands that have been exploited by colonial powers, left to fend for themselves in the wake of withdrawal and where power rests in the hands of the most powerful factions, Cameroon is better off than most of its neighbors.  Africa holds 15 of the 30 most corrupt nations on the planet. 

The national dish of Cameroon is called Ndole.  Due to the diversity of Cameroons culture and food choices, we are going to cook not one but two dishes today.   Another popular favorite recipe that might be considered a national dish is Kondre.  I am including both recipes here and will photograph each separately as they are very different one pot stews. 

With fine friends Scott and Leslie Webb (a cautious eater) we attacked two huge pots of food and the result was very full, very satisfied people.  The two dishes were very different and the instructions for both include a lot of prep and cooking time.  I give both a 3-4 out of 5 rating for difficulty.

The Kondre is a hearty thick stew similar to a butternut squash soup.  I liked the dish overall, but it was a little too sweet for me. 

The Ndole was savory, salty, sweet and bitter with umami.  Very well balanced!  I really liked this dish.  However, next time I will try mustard greens as the collards were dumbed down a bit in the cooking process.  I wanted even more of the bitter flavor, but that was my only complaint. It is traditionally made with Shrimp or fish (Cod) but I substituted chicken due to my guests shellfish allergy.  It turned out great.  I will definitely revisit this dish.

Rating for Kondre:

Appearance:  2 out of 5

Aroma: 4 out of 5 (very unique sweet and herby aroma)

Flavor: 3 out of 5

Total: 9 out of 15 

CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION

Kondre Ingredients:

500 g Beef (1 lb)
250 g tomatoes  (1/2 lbs)
basil  3 tbsp or more if you prefer
celery ½ cup chopped
wild peppercorns (we will use a peppercorn blend of Red, White, Green and Black peppercorns)
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp of ginger grated or powder

ginger sliced into “sheets” about 2 inches
1 tbsp palm oil
2.5 kilos of plantains (5-6 lbs) approx. 8-12 plantains
parsley 1/3 cup
2 red chili peppers (scotch bonnet)
2 onions diced

Preparation:

Crush or puree all the condiments finely: tomatoes, parsley, basil, celery, peppers, garlic, ginger, 1 Onion and wild pepper.
Finely cut 1 Onion and reserve.
Peel the plantains in a large water basin and reserve.
Cut the meat in small cubes, and then wash and drain.
Saute the reserved Onion in palm oil and season to taste.
Add the crushed condiments, the washed and drained meat, the sheets of ginger as well as the peeled plantains.
Cover with water and let simmer for 1h30.
Serve hot.

http://www.africanafood.com/recipescameroonkondre.htm

 

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION

Rating for Ndole:

Appearance:  4 out of 5

Aroma:  3 out of 5

Flavor: 4 out of 5

Total: 11 out of 15

 

Ndole Ingredients:

500 ml dried Bitterleaf (if you can’t find it in your area, substitute it with spinach, kale, collards, or turnip greens)

500 g Chicken cut in bite sized pieces  (Look at the size of these chicken breasts!!  The vodka bottle just happened to be the first thing close at hand to give a comparison…  They were more like Turkey Breasts! Hiccup!)

250 ml natural peanut butter – in other words, not sweetened.  Or sub 2-3 cups chopped fine shell off and skinless peanuts.

1 large onion, chopped

500 ml water ( I reserved the water that I blanched the greens and cooked the chicken in for more flavor)

2 generous tbsp fresh ginger, grated

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

6 large sweet fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 to 3 tbsp vegetable oil – or olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:

(If using greens other than Bitterleaf, skip this step – soak the Bitterleaf overnight; drain in the morning and press out the excess water.

If using kale, collards, mustard or turnip greens, wash the greens, chop them, and cook them in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove the greens and chop to bite sized pieces. Reserve the water.

If using spinach, wash the leaves well, rinse properly and then chop the spinach.

After prepping your choice of greens, parboil the chicken in the same water that you cooked the greens in.  Remove after 8-10 minutes and chop into bite sized chunks. ( Reserve the water for later addition to the soup)

Heat 2 tbsp of oil to medium high in a large pot and add the onions, the garlic and the ginger and sauté for a few minutes until the onions are translucent.

Add the chopped tomatoes, reduce heat and simmer for about 3 minutes before adding the greens (unless you are using spinach) and then simmering again for about another 5 minutes.

Now add the peanut butter, stirring well to combine everything – cover the pot and continue simmering until greens are tender, about 10 – 15 minutes – if the mixture is a little dry, add some of the water, a little at a time.

Add the chicken, (here is where you would add the spinach if you chose that green) and check and correct the seasoning.  Allow to cook for 5 more minutes.

Serve with rice or boiled plantains and Fu Fu, Mealie- Meal, Fungee etc.

http://www.justfoodnow.com/2010/01/28/african-spirit-the-food-of-cameroon/

 http://www.afropop.org/multi/feature/ID/43/Recipe+for+Ndole

Add’l sources: http://maps.google.com/maps?sourceid=navclient&rlz=1T4TSHB_enUS267US267&q=Cameroon+map&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=Cameroon&gl=us&ei=4dCPS-uKLpOWtgfk3aG0Cw&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=image&resnum=1&ved=0CAsQ8gEwAA

Cool world facts: http://www.worldatlas.com/geoquiz/thelist.htm

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Cameroonian permalink
    June 4, 2010 6:22 pm

    Although I highly applaude you for bringing the world cuisine in the US, I am afraid your recipe of Ndole is not accurate. The process that you describe unfortunnately will not result in Ndole. Also, spinash is a no no because of it consistency. Leaves such as Kale, especially mustard green can be used if one does not find the bitter leaves. The picture does not look anything like Ndole. I first thought it was Pepper soup. But good job for trying.

    • June 5, 2010 10:01 am

      Dear Cameroonian,

      Thank you for coming by and having a look at my blog. I have been so thrilled to see the feedback from people from around the world. I really could not have hoped for a better reception.

      As to the Ndole. I figured that a dish like this would draw some remarks. I am by no means an expert on African Cuisine. In fact I have found many of the traditional dishes of African nations to be the hardest dishes for me to cook. Mostly due to my perspective and lack of experience in this area. That being said, it was a recipe I found online and the end result was very tasty so perhaps it needs a name as it’s own unique dish. I would be open to suggestions.

      I also really appreciate it when I get a reader submitted recipe. If you have a good recipe for Ndole that substitutes Mustard Greens, I would appreciate it if you could email it to me at myhungrytum@gmail.com. I look forward to trying over to create that dish in its true form.

      Again thank you and I hope to hear from you and have you stop by MHT often.

      Eric

  2. ashley permalink
    December 8, 2010 2:23 pm

    iukkk!

    • December 8, 2010 8:11 pm

      I’m pretty sure that is a “yuck” in a foreign tongue. Thanks for the comment. Really don’t expect everyone to like all of these. But at least you stopped in and said “iukkk!”

  3. Cynthia permalink
    February 9, 2011 5:01 pm

    Thanks for the recipe. I am Nigerian and remember having ndole a long time ago at a friend’s place when I was in college. I loved it, and I’m really glad to have found a good recipe. Thanks and please post more recipes. Delicious!

    • Cynthia permalink
      February 9, 2011 5:11 pm

      I just wanted to add… I have a lot of friends from Cameroun, and I feel that it is not really necessary to focus so much of your piece on this country to corruption in Africa. Great dish/recipe though, but I’d rather read more about their rich culture and history. I’m sure many would agree. There is corruption in almost all countries…. Just a thought after scrolling up and reading the article. Keep up the good work. Thanks.

    • February 9, 2011 7:44 pm

      Hello Cynthia,

      I appreciate you reading the blog and I am happy to help bring a recipe to you that brings back memories. I might suggest that you read the comments above by a reader called “Cameroonian” who clearly recommends using a bitter green in this dish. Mustard Greens are the best substitute or Kale if that is unavailable. This is one of the biggest challenges facing me in this journey, namely how to cook authentic recipes with substitution ingredients. Occasionally I make the wrong call and I am very lucky to have readers point out a better way of doing things. I have since begun to add many African recipes to my own daily cooking since I found them to be delicious and healthy…

      As to your second comment, I appreciate your viewpoint on this as well. Doing the research for these countries has been an eye opener of a geography lesson. I also admit freely to being a sentimentalist. I guess it is difficult to read about the suffering of the people of Africa and NOT point out the challenges facing many of these nations. It is also hard to avoid grouping all of Africa (as many people do) into one sentence. It is incredibly diverse as you know and Cameroon is possibly the best example of such.

      I am encouraged that despite hundreds of years of colonialism and oppression by invading European powers and the helter skelter geo-political scenarios brought on by globalization, that many of Africa’s countries including Cameroon have begun to forge a better future for themselves. I hope that the meddling of Western powers does not continue to hinder that development which I believe is vital for both Africa and the world. I also hope that Africans embrace methods that bring lasting prosperity and sustainable development.

      One other point is that my articles are supposed to be a snapshot of the history of these countries; in particular I hope that eventually a picture will emerge of the migration of food habits with the migration of groups of people. The period of colonialism and post colonialism has been the historic time period that has most added to migration of populations and thus the spread of the cultures and food from them. In the United States and the rest of the Americas this happened largely because the awful slave years that affected so much of Western Africa and its people. Elsewhere dissipation of people was due to economic and social conditions in their home countries. This happened in my family around the time of the Potato Famine in Ireland and social unrest throughout Europe. Every St. Patricks day, I celebrate some of the food from Ireland in the form of Boiled Dinner. We also cook dishes from the Skandinavian background of my grandfather.

      I use accurate information to the best of my ability to write these articles. I certainly do not want them to give someone a false or unclear understanding of the subject nation, but being fallible, I fall short on a regular basis. I hope that readers will understand that I am not trying to write a definitive text, but rather a snapshot of current and historic conditions.

      I had hoped that I had included enough of the virtues of Cameroon that readers would not take issue with some of the less attractive parts of the story. Here is a link to an article I read recently that may be a more objective (certainly closer to the issues) viewpoint than mine. http://www.njeitimah-outlook.com/articles/article/2076046/31946.htm

      The reason I even mention corruption census in some of my articles, is because that and other factors often induce migration. Migration is what causes the wonderful blending of culinary cultures. It is definitely a factor in my overall thesis. It is also a small but positive result of some of the negativity in our planet.

      I will as always continue to strive to improve my writing and fact checking. It is comments like yours that push me to be better. So thank you.

      Eric

  4. January 16, 2012 6:36 pm

    Hi Eric,those are difficult dishes to prepare .You are doing a good job.

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