Suya is a popular street food not only in Nigeria but in other west African countries. Nigeria in its rich culture of diverse ethnicity and dialect has always found harmony in certain meals, or this case spice. In the likes of Suya, Jollof, Moi-Moi and Nigerian fried rice. These are all dishes that many Nigerians are familiar with regardless of ethnicity.
Suya is a meat dish Nigerians cook over a firewood grill with spices, similar to a kebab. The key is using the right spices and thus almost anything can have the Suya flavour. The spice mix was originally made by northern Nigerian herdsmen. It has in time found its way across West Africa and beyond. Each spice in the suya mixture is common across Nigeria and West-African local dishes. They are packed with aromatic flavours that make a perfect spice rub for beef, pork, fish and chicken. Talk about an all-purpose taste of West Africa.
Here are the essential ingredients and what they are:
- Kuli–Kuli Balls – A common Nigerian snack made from roasted peanuts. Groundnut is the common name for peanuts in Nigerian and most West-African countries. To make the kuli-kuli, the groundnuts are blended and strained of their oils. The leftover pulp is then made into different shapes, one of the popular shapes being a round ball shape. Kuli-kuli is eaten as a spicy snack and commonly used in various recipes especially in the northern region of Nigeria. Such as in making the suya spice mix. Alternatively, you can blend roasted peanuts and use them as a substitute in making the suya spice mix. Peanut butter is also a great substitute for a wet suya spice rub.
- Grains of Selim – A common spice in Nigeria also used in cooking soups and sauces. It is common in other West African Countries and also known as African Pepper, Hwentia (in Ghana) and Uneihnei (in my native language ‘Urhobo’ in Nigeria)
- African Nutmeg (Calabash Nutmeg) – One of Nigeria’s most widely used ingredients in seasoning dishes. Also known as Erhe in Urhobo language, Ehuru (in the Igbo language), Gujiya dan Miya (in Hausa) and ariwo (in Yoruba).
- Alligator Pepper – A pungent spice used in a lot of West African soups. Traditionally regarded as an expensive spice and holds other traditional symbolism. Such as in the performance of native wedding ceremonies.
Other Substitute/add-on spices
- Star Anise is a great substitute for the grain of Selim although not quite the same.
- Regular Nutmeg is milder but also has a close resemblance in flavouring dishes to the calabash nutmeg.
- Chilli powders are another fundamental ingredient to the suya spice mix. Preferably dried/smoked habanero or scotch bonnet peppers, popularly known to Nigerians in the Yoruba language as ‘Ata-rodo’. However, cayenne pepper powder makes for a great substitute.
Suya Spice Mix
- 200 g 1 1/2 KuliKuli Balls (Peanut flour as substitute)
- 5 Tbsp Ginger Powder
- 3 Tbsp Garlic Powder
- 6 Tbsp Smoked Paprika Powder
- 12 Strands Grains Of Selim Pods (seeded) (Star anise as substitute will not give the exact taste but it is a close resemblance of flavour)
- 7 African Nutmeg (1 Classic nutmeg as substitute will not give the exact taste, but it will give a close resemblance)
- 1 whole Alligator Pepper Pod Seeds (about 1 Tbsp seeds)
- 1 Tbsp Hot Chili Powder (preferably dried/smoked habanero or scotch bonnet peppers powder. Cayenne pepper also makes a great substitute)
- 1 Tsp Salt
- Using an electric blender, grind the alligator peppers, African nutmeg and grains of Selim until smooth. You can also use a pestle & mortar or a grinding stone ware which is what was used originally in the olden days.
- Crush in the kulikuli balls or peanut powder and give it a quick blitz just so it’s well combined.
- Heat a dry pan over medium heat and pour in the combined mixture with the other seasonings (ginger, garlic, chilli powder, smoked paprika powder and salt ).
- Using a wooden spoon, toss the spice mixture in the pan for about 5 minutes or until you can smell a pungent aroma.
- Turn the heat off, set the pan aside and let it cool.
- Store the spice mixture in a jar. (You can use it immediately or store in a cool & dry area)
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