Suya plays a huge part in the Nigerian food culture. Suya joints – a street kiosk where an array of deliciously grilled suya meats are cooked and sold over a handmade firewood barbeque. From states to cities, local areas and villages, every area have a local favourite suya joint. The spot night-party goers get their munchies from because the beef suya is a perfect accompaniment to a happy hour. Where young ones ignite their coming of age love stories or where old lovers grab a quick bite before a night out. Where parents grab the only savoury treat that will rin down cheers from their kids. Basically, suya is a popular street food that plays many roles, from nightlife buzz, love stories and family dinner tables. Suya is also served at grand ceremonial events. Such as traditional wedding parties or grand birthday celebrations.
so what exactly is suya? The word “suya” refers to both the spice mix and the meat it’s been grilled with, i.e beef suya. The Suya spice mix is a peanut-based spice mix that incorporates a combination of traditional Nigerian spices with some very simply spices we all know of. The suya spice mix can also be referred to as “yaji”. You can find details of the suya spice mix with the traditional recipe by clicking here. However, in this beef suya skewer recipe, I created a spice mix that emulates the flavour and aroma of the traditional mix. I meticulously choose spices that are easily accessible worldwide and when combined create the same suya taste.
For the Suya spice mix:
- Roasted peanuts
- garlic powder
- ginger powder
- chilli powder
- black pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg
Beef suya and the origin of Suya
When you say you want to get suya in Nigeria, it is automatically assumed that you want some grilled beef suya. That is beef that has been grilled and seasoned with the suya spice mix. Beef is the original meat used in making suya. The origin of suya comes from the northern region of Nigeria, where cows are mostly reared. The northerners are known for their herdsmanship and even when cows are reared in other parts of the country, northern herdsmen do so because they have mastered the craft. However, there are so many versions of suya these days. From beef suya, chicken suya, pork suya, suya seafood mix, suya tilapia, etc. You can also the suya spice mix being used on other dishes. Such as on salads, baked potatoes or grilled plantains, etc. In addition, beef suya makes a great accompaniment to smoky party style jollof rice.
On beef suya, jerky and kebabs
The world has heard of kebabs, beef jerky and jerk spice mix. Suya is the Nigerian treat that has always had its own table. The worlds table just needs to know what it’s missing out on. All these styles of cooking meat and unique spice blends are a huge part of the African culture at large. Kebabs are a part of the food culture in east African countries. Beef jerky is renowned in South Africa and they even have another type of beef jerky called the “Biltong” which I’ve heard is more delicious. Jerk spice mixes are popular in the Caribbean, whose culture is founded upon several African cultures. Suya however similar it seems to kebabs and jerky, has its distinct flavour that is unmatched.
Beef Suya Skewer
- 1/4 cup Roasted peanuts
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp Freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 500 g beef (thinly cut)
- Place a few wooden skewers in a bowl of water to soak for 30 minutes (or leave overnight the day before making the suya skewers).
- Place a pan over medium-high heat. Pour in the peanuts, then toss and char until it's brown and toasted.
- Pour the charred peanuts into a mortar and grind with a pestle into gritty bits. Add the ginger, garlic, chilli powder, nutmeg and salt, then grind until it's all combined. (The spice mix can be gritty or smooth as you prefer. You can also blitz in a blender or food processor).
- Place the beef in a dish and season with a tablespoon of the suya spice mix and the sunflower oil. Rub the spices and oil into the beef slices, then wrap the dish in plastic wrap and leave in a refrigerator for 30 minutes to marinade.
- Place the remaining spice mix in a jar to use later. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.
- After 30 minutes of marinating, pass each slice of beef through a skewer. leaving a 1/3 of the skewer empty to hold. Repeat with all the beef until they are all on a skewer.
- Place the beef skewers on an oven rack and place them in a preheated oven. Also, place an oven tray with baking paper to catch the dripping juices from the meat. Grill in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
- Once cooked remove the beef skewers from the oven. Scoop some of the leftover suya spice mix unto a flat dish and rub the beef skewers into the spice mix and serve.