Warning- If you are a vegetarian or on a strictly vegan diet, proceed at your own risk!!
I stand at the front of the line. Finally! After joining the queue 20 minutes ago, it is now my turn. There is a charcoal fuelled fire burning in a controlled manner in something that looked like an improvised grill. On my instruction, the lady behind the charcoal fire took 2 skewers of thinly sliced, specially seasoned beef and put them on the fire which responded with that “sizzle” sound you hear when meat touches heat. I watch as she lets one side turn brown and flips it over so the other side cooks as well. When both sides are sufficiently brown, she takes the skewers off, puts them on a chopping board, cuts the meat into inch wide strips, adds some sliced tomatoes and onions, sprinkles some pepper, wraps them in an old newspaper and then sends me on my way (after cash has exchanged hands of course). Of course, I don’t walk far before I open up my package and dig into the treasure that lies therein.
Pardon me if I made you hungry!
Suya (soo-YAH) is a delicacy from northern Nigeria which honestly, you can find in any other part of the country these days. The quintessential finger food, some people consider it a snack or appetizer while others don’t mind making it part of a meal. For me, I like it either way although I do know that it goes quite well with garri soaked in iced cold water. Talking about iced cold, I don’t drink beer but I hear that Suya also does quite well with beer or palm wine that’s close to freezing. The only problem here really is actually getting something cold to pair your Suya with what with the incessant power outages!
Now, anyone with a countertop grill or an oven can make something similar to Suya but there is just something special about having it done by a “professional”. Maybe it’s the peanut powder it’s seasoned with or the distinct flavour from the charcoal fire. The tomatoes and onions just seem to serve as the perfect compliment. And the old newspaper? Suya just doesn’t feel complete without it.
Like I mentioned earlier, even though Suya is a dish that originated from the northern part of the country, it has become more or less a national delicacy and a unifying factor more like soccer and music. Besides, who would even want to discriminate against delicious, well-seasoned beef (or goat meat or lamb)?
Nigerians just love their Suya and will always do-recent WHO warnings about red meat as a possible human carcinogen notwithstanding. Such is the love Nigerians have for Syua that someone who’s not been in the country for 8 years is having such vivid daydreams about his visit to a “Suya spot” in Lagos weeks before it even happens.