Taste of Nigeria: For the love of Suya

By Tunde Ajao

Well personally I am an amala man (I prefer the one made with Yam not Cassava) , I love amala with egusi prawn soup but I do not mind ewedu soup.

I prefer it with a combination of various meats from different animals with their internal organs (Eran orisirisi). Usually I prefer this dish being served at a temperature that is hot enough to be steaming with a cold drink usually coke, that has just been removed from the fridge and it appears to be sweating (although this is just the solid ice turning into liquid water at room temperature). I would prefer to eat it with my hands after washing my hands in lukewarm water, although over the years I have learnt to become proficient in the use of cutlery especially the fork to eat my favourite dish. Unlike many others that just push each bolus of food to the back of the tongue and push it to the back of the throat and allow peristalsis to take over. I chew each bolus with the soup in my mouth savouring the taste of dried yam, tasting the sunlight, starch and the minerals of Dioscorea rotundata. I have not been able to develop a taste for pando yam (processed pounded yam) but my children demolish a dish without mercy, taking no prisoners leaving no survivors. It might be that I am so use to the taste of the “original” pounded yam according to Mama Calabar at Wembley. I have not been able to state the reason why but one thing I always know is that when I eat this “Pando Yam”, I feel that it is artificial and do not have total satisfaction. It might be what is involved in the processing of the real pounded yam (Iyan) or original Pounded Yam, well parts of wood used in mortar and pestle have become embedded in the Iyan hence I use to that taste, I don’t know. I recently went to visit a friend in Nigeria and remembering smiling to myself when hearing the mortar pounding in their forecourt.

I developed a taste for Suya when doing my NYSC in the northern part of Nigeria. We had Suya once or twice at the orientation camp and I managed to buy Suya every week I went to the nearby town, when I went to my primary assignment. A lot of people love pepper soup but to me it is just small pieces of meat in peppery oily water. But Suya is a different case; it is an art which is musical to my mouth, tongue, nose, nostrils and stomach.

The Hausa have perfected the art of presenting, selling and serving roasted cow meat. They put it in a large bowl with a lantern in the middle and paper for serving round the edges. This is usually carried by a very tall dark man or they are found at road junctions. The cow meat is on sticks and has been roasted for some time like a kebab. Then they have a very sharp curved thin knife that they use, very expertly and fast to cut the meat to smaller pieces. Then they usually add onions which are cut to smaller pieces also very fast, by this time you wonder if he would cut his fingers as well, but they never do. Then they add a special spice it. This spice might be the secret that produces the unique Suya experience. One never actually knew what it contained apart from those that prepare it, but it is suggested that it had peanut in it. For all you know it might be carcinogenic and contain compounds with some E numbers that here it might have been banded in the UK. But I as a lot of people think that it’s natural and they are special herbs. The man usually hands you the Suya still warm in a piece of paper. I loved Suya and the people that served it. I visited Nigeria recently and one of the very first things I did was visit the Suya man, my brother did try to introduce me to pepper soup but it just did not seem to hit the right nerve with me.

So you could image my joy when I saw a Suya Express in Dalston in London, I was ecstatic euphoric and elated. I felt on top of the moon and wanted to get there soonest. I did manage to get there eventally about four years later, but it seemed that the cook was not there that day. I left disappointed, it tasted like boiled not roasted meat. When I passed that place recently to my disappointed I noticed that it was closed. I felt like banging my head against a hard wall, it was that painful. I did take it personally. I would have cried but I was with my wife and children, the next question from my inquisitive children, would have been “Daddy, why are you crying?”. This would have been very hard for me to explain. Where would I have began, so I just battered my eyelids and took it like a man.

Where could I get “real original” Suya and this has been on my mind since I first arrived in the UK. Now with the internet I have got the secret Hausa recipe for Suya and thanks to my in-laws yearly barbecues I know how now to roast cow meat that it’s oozing with juices. I can now easily produce Suya which I love and enjoy.

4 thoughts on “Taste of Nigeria: For the love of Suya

  1. DaddyGaspar

    I am not in the habit of telling people off. But I have to once go off my habit to tell whoever wrote the story that he has nothing to write.
    Wanted to see the relevance of topic to our immediate problem in Nigeria but found none.
    If his problem is roasted meat and where to get it in London. Nothing stops him from opening a Suya Spot himself as a way of promoting Nigeria outside than wasting all the time TALKING LOUD AND SAYING NOTHING. We expect the New and Empowered Nigerians Abroad Magazine to take up topical issues instead of people using it to tell love stories and all the Bullshit tales. So lets pursue shape not shadow

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