Suya: The Classic Nigerian Street Food You Should Know

You may have recently heard of the jollof rice wars, a debate over which West African country, between Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria, has the superior take on the beloved dish. The spicy tomato dish has won over fans devoted to the specific taste of each country's spin on the mouth-watering entrée. Substitutions down to which type of oil is used is said to make all the difference in flavors (via BBC).

While the divisive jollof may take the top spot in many Nigerians' hearts, the food scene in the country is far from limited to it. Nigerian suya, a spicy skewered street-food recipe, is gaining popularity globally. Suya uses marinated beef strips that are seasoned, skewered and grilled. The spice blend can vary, but, as Serious Eats explains, it often includes chiles, garlic, onion and ground kuli-kuli, a blend of ground, roasted peanuts mixed with salt and other spices. 

While this food is not commonly prepared in sit-down restaurants, it can be found on smokey sidewalks being assembled by expert vendors, as per Culture Trip, and is a street-food staple that has been popular in Nigeria for decades.

The history of suya

A tribe in Northern Nigeria, the Hausa, are widely credited with creating the dish, according to Google Arts & Culture. The Hausa peoples' cuisine is heavily meat-based. Culture Trip says their meats are often "marinated for several hours in a peanut paste or in groundnut oil-infused spice blends." While suya is historically prepared by this group, it is still a mystery when and how the first suya recipes came about.

The suya's popularity has since grown across the entire country of Nigeria. Suya stands can be found nestled on street corners in bustling downtown Lagos or on sun-soaked beaches with their smokey, coal-fired grills signaling the delicious fare is ready to be eaten. Suya is often sold in the evening or at night, making it a perfect pairing after a night out. Men from Northern Nigeria are often the ones preparing it. Culture Trip says these men are known as "Mai Suya" and are experts at all aspects of the preparation and assembling process. 

But you don't have to be an expert to make succulent suya at home.

How to make suya at home

Suya may seem like a fairly simple dish to construct, but doing it right takes mastery and practice.

Traditionally, suya was only made with beef. But, contemporary takes on this dish have seen ram, chicken, shrimp, and even tripe as tasty substitutions (via Culture Trip). You can choose whatever meat you prefer or assemble a combination of different meats to discover your favorite.

The next step is to create your spice mixture. Our recipe calls for cayenne, ground roasted peanuts, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground ginger, salt, and ground Maggi bouillon cubes. This blend, or whatever blend you create, should be mixed with the sliced meat and marinated for at least one hour. After this, the meat is ready to be skewered and grilled.

The final product is a nutty and spicy treat that is ready to enjoy alone or paired with sides. Popular accompaniments are lettuce, tomatoes, and raw onion slices (via Serious Eats).