The recipe of the month is Beef Suya, a popular Nigerian street food. Suya is a spicy kabob made of either beef, lamb or chicken that are best grilled on a barbeque. Suya kabobs are most often associated with the Hausa of northwestern Nigeria (and South Niger), but similar kabobs can be found throughout West Africa. The Hausa (sometimes call "mallams") are a Muslim ethnic group and, as such, suya are prepared by halal methods. In addition to being farmers and pastoral nomads, the Hausa often work as itinerant traders and therefore kabobs are found throughout Nigeria and enjoyed by all. As such, suya is not confined to the north; there are suya street vendors (known as "mai suya" (suya men) found in cities throughout the country. There are also "suya bars" where people can go after work to unwind and eat suya with friends and co-workers.
Although beef is the most common meat used for suya, it can also be made with chicken, lamb, goat, shrimp or organ meats such as liver. The major ingredient in the coating (the rub) applied to the meat is ground peanuts. The spice mixture added to the ground peanuts is called yaji. Some internet commentators have claimed that the most authentic Suya uses a crumbled up Kuli-kuli bars (not to be confused with the Kuli-kuli smoothies), a popular Nigerian peanut snack bar. The ingredient list for yaji varies a bit, but basic inclusions are ground roasted peanuts, paprika (sweet or hot), ground ginger, ground chili powder (such as cayenne), garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.
Our recipe includes two ingredients that are specific to West Africa, "grains of selim" (aka grains of paradise or uda seeds) and ground cubeb pepper. Both are available on Amazon, but a bit on the pricey side. It is possible to buy Suya (or yaji) seasoning on Amazon as well, but most have ground peanuts in them so each package might only make one meal. Inya foods sells the spices without the ground peanuts, but their mixes are only 2 ounces (approximately 4 tablespoons).Yet another option is that you can buy a pound of kuli-kuli crackers on Amazon as well.
Again, suya is a street food, it can be prepared at home, but rarely is. Thankfully, suya does not require any special equipment, just a barbeque grill of some sort.
Zobo is a drink that has many names (roselle, bissap, sorrel, agua de Jamaica etc.) and the hibiscus petals (hibiscus sabdariffa) it is made from are used for drinks in Africa, South Asia, Thailand, South and Central America and Mexico. In West Africa it is served cold, but a similar drink (karkade) is enjoyed warm in Egypt. Zobo is made from boiled hibiscus leaves with pineapple, ginger and sugar. As the concoction is boiled and then strained, you can husk the outer peelings of pineapple skin instead using pineapple juice.
- 1 pound beef flank or sirloin steak (makes about 6 skewers)
For the Yajin Kuli:
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1/2 cup roasted groundnut/peanut butter powder (40g) (see note)
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- ½ to 1 tablespoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground grains of selim or grains of paradise (optional; see note) Find on Amazon.com
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cubeb pepper (see note, find on Amazon.com)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- Red onions (the sweeter the better), thinly sliced (sweet yellow onions are fine too)
- Small tomatoes, quartered
- Cucumber, sliced and quartered
- Soak skewers in water.
- Cut the beef across the grain to create strips two inches long, one inch wide and 1/8 - 1/4 thick. Semi-freezing the beef beforehand (put uncut beef in freezer for 30 - 40 minutes) might make this easier.
- Grind the peanuts. The oil in the peanuts will prevent the peanuts from becoming powdery, the end result will be a little bit chunky and that’s what it should be.
- Thoroughly mix the ground peanuts and spices for the Yakin Kuli together. You will have more than you need and you can save the surplus in the refrigerator.
- In a bowl, thoroughly mix beef, two tablespoons of peanut oil and 1/2 cup of Yakin Kuli together.
- Refrigerate seasoned beef for 30 minutes or more (the more the better—I actually left ours for a day and all was good).
- Fold and skewer the beef (see photo).
- Grill on a barbecue grill until the meat is slightly charred on all sides. A charcoal grill is best but gas fired is okay.
Serve with tomato wedges, cucumber slices and sliced red onions. Cultural note: Per capita, North and West Africa consume the most onions in the world!
- 2 1/2 cups of dried hibiscus flowers
- Outer peels of a pineapple or 1 cup of pineapple juice
- 4 ounces of peeled and sliced ginger root
- 2 - 3 cups of sugar
- 12 cups of water
- Combine all the ingredients except the sugar in a large pot and bring to a boil.
- Turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add sugar and test for sweetness adjusting according to your own tastes.
- Let cool and strain out the solids.
- Served chilled with ice.
Enjoy! Recipe and photos: T. Johnston-O'Neill