There are 2 kinds of people in the world; people who like suya and people who are telling lies. Suya is a spicy meat skewer that originates from Northern Nigeria and has grown in popularity across Nigeria and other parts of West Africa. It is typically made from beef, ram or chicken (including organs) marinated in yaaji pepper. It is an excellent drinking food and pairs very well with ice cold beer!
Yaaji pepper is a spicy peanut based rub and is full of bold flavours. It's made from:
The yaaji is rubbed generously into the meat skewers, which are then roasted over open charcoal. I decided to try a fun experiment and explore suya in some of its different forms around Lagos.
This version is great on a budget and you can find them on almost every street. Darkness is an essential ingredient for making suya and so they’re always open till late. Most of the vendors require cash payments, but luckily for me my main guy accepts transfers.
For ₦200/$0.49 stick, you get a nice batch of freshly grilled meat. It is usually accompanied by some fresh onions, cabbages, cucumbers and tomatoes which cut the bold flavours and give a nice crunch. You can accompany it with some carbohydrates in the form of massa (fried rice cakes) for ₦50 a piece and is the most classic way to enjoy the dish.
Sooyah bistro has interesting concepts for the age old street food delicacy, so I put them on the list as well. They have a couple of kiosks around Lagos and so I visited one of them. I decided to get their burger combo - which comes with a batch of French fries and a drink.
The bun is nicely toasted until it's warm and has a nice char. It is then slathered with a sweet and creamy sauce and a generous layer of suya chunks are lined on top. The result is a warm and juicy sandwich that goes a decent way in satiating your taste buds. The fries are perfect to cut down the bold yaaji flavour and an ice cold drink washes it all down. The combo costs ₦2,950/$7.76.
Wingsville Grill House
Wingsville is a favourite of mine when it comes to delicious chicken wings. They have a suya-pepper flavoured wings and for ₦2,600/$6.36, you get 6 wings and a side of sweet potato fries.
The yaaji spice is definitely there but it's more to tease your taste buds rather than overwhelm them. The chicken itself was very good, the flavour runs deep into the meat and the skin is deep friend until it's a beautiful golden brown. The fries were good too, lightly dusted in seasonings and crispy on the outside. I wish they had other dipping sauce options beyond ketchup though.
Ile Eros is known for using traditional Nigerian ingredients and creating fun and exciting experiences. They do a Suya night on Wednesdays and for ₦3000/$7.34 you can get their suya bowl, pictured above. It's great to share with a small group and is a fresh take on ingredients we are already familiar with.
I ordered it with beef and ram and these were roasted till tender. The tomatoes and coriander tag-team add some freshness to the bowl and there's a carrot puree that further adds a delicate sweetness. The massa is delightful, it's sweeter and more mushy that regular massa and gives the dish a fun mouth-feel. The caramelised onions weren't doing it for me though - there was no crunch factor, so maybe some pickled onions might work better.
Although suya and yaaji are flavours that we are very familiar with, it is still interesting to see the different and creative ways that people are using the ingredient. Leave a comment telling me which of these dishes you would love to try, and don't forget to share!