Four Freaky Cameroonian FoodsiStockphoto
There are different stories about where the name 404 comes from. I heard people explaining that if you handwrite 404 and put it upside down, you have two front legs with a head, a body in the middle and two back legs with a tail. Other people say that it refers to the Peugeot 404.
Regardless of where the name comes from, 404 is dog meat. People believe this is very healthy, improves libido and heals certain diseases. In some areas it is therefore very popular.
Dogs are often caught or kidnapped from the streets. I know people who complain that as soon as their dog gets fat, it disappears. Your expat dog is very likely to be much better fed than the average Cameroonian street dog. So keep this in mind and keep an eye on your friend to prevent him ending up as 404!
Achu is a favourite of many Cameroonians. It is made of cocoyam and plantain and normally eaten with yellow soup. This sounds kind of fine. But if you want to try it, make sure you clear your calendar for a few days afterwards to recover.
Almost no foreigner is able to eat Achu without getting sick. The problem is not in the cocoyam or the plantain, but in the sauce. One of the ingredients of the sauce is crushed limestone and it seems like most of our Western stomachs are not used to this and can’t handle it. So, handle with care!
Bush meat can literally be any meat from the bush and is very popular among Cameroonians. It is not always clear what you eat when you choose this meal, but that seems to be part of the experience. In some cases, eating rat may be a disgusting idea, but then at least you don’t eat an endangered species. The situation is much trickier when you eat bats, which may be carriers for Ebola. Animals like antelopes, porcupines and armadillos are also common to find depending on the region.
But how about wild cats or monkeys? I once received a whole dried baboon from a grateful school. The smell alone already made it a freaky food!
Cow skin is popular in some kinds of sauces and soups, like pepe soup. It is a bit tough, but if you have been in Cameroon for a while you will get used to tough meat or strange parts like chicken heads or goat intestines.
My problem with the cow skin is that it is not always very well-cleaned. So then you end up eating cow skin with hair. Not really my favourite!
Esly van Dam is Dutch and has been living in Cameroon since 2014. She lived in a small town before moving to the capital and enjoys sharing her local experiences with others. Esly is an InterNations Ambassador in Yaoundé.