A Nigerian expat reminisces about her country’s most beloved street food.
“Suya is the ultimate in Nigerian street food: charcoal grilled skewers of peanut spiced beef. Think of Asian saté but take it a step further in deliciousness. Every neighborhood has a suya spot, manned by ‘mallams,’ men from the north of the country trained in the art and spice of grilling meat. Suya prep starts early in the morning. The mallam and his boys cut and thread thin strips of sirloin or topside marinated in a dry peanut mix, elevated with a combination of ground spices—ginger, garlic, paprika, chili powder, and salt. The suya sticks are grilled and then left to rest. By 4 p.m., the first wave of men and women retreating home after a hard day’s work are rewarded by the sight of the mallam standing over a fire fanning the flames and gently urging the skewers to warm up. Suya is served in newspapers, meat on stick or sans, with a sprinkling of the marinade mix, fresh tomato wedges, red onion chunks and, for the brave, slices of fresh hot chili pepper. No Nigerian (in Nigeria) makes suya at home. Except maybe the mallams. And homesick Nigerians (outside Nigeria). Like me.”