Suya is Nigerian street food at its best: spicy, nutty, smoked and charred beef skewers, served with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lettuce and lime juice.

I wonder if there is something special about kebabs that explains why so many of their names start with “s”, a thought that came to mind during a frosty night at a Christmas market in Cologne, when the temperatures rose by minus 13 ° C and that I met for the first time There are, of course, kebabs, originating from Turkey, which today are typical of the cuisine of the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Caucasus and South Asia. There is South African Sosatia, Balinese Satay, Greek Souvlaki and Spiedie poles in New York. And then there is the Nigerian Suya.

Suya is Nigerian street food at its best – think spicy hazelnut beef strung on skewers and then grilled, the sticks finished in Foil or foil with a side of fresh tomatoes, sliced red onions and a sprinkle of Yajin Kuli. Yajin Kuli is made from Yaji — a mixture of chili peppers, ginger, garlic, onions, salt and other spices — and ground Kuli Kuli, which is essentially a dehydrated and defatted peanut paste. Suya is originally from Northern Nigeria, where the knowledge and mastery of meat are unmatched.

Kuli Kuli is made by grinding roasted peanuts until the mixture almost reaches a nut butter consistency. Often, ground chili peppers and ginger are included in the mixture. Water is added, then the mixture is kneaded into a paste, and in the process, the oil — Peanut oil — is expelled. The resulting dough is formed into sticks, balls, crackers and other shapes and fried in peanut oil. The process stabilizes the coolie coolie and it can be stored at room temperature without going rancid.

For decades, Nigerians in the south of the country — like me – have obtained our Suya and Yaji from Mallams, pastoral nomads from the North who know the art and spice of preserving meat. They traveled around the country, leaving edible traces of Suya stains in Nigeria and West Africa. Growing up, you could only buy Suya in the evening, because the Mallams spent the whole day preparing the meat — slicing it, dredging it in the Yajin Cooli and grilling it. (It is customary to grill the meat twice: once for cooking, then once more just before serving.) Nowadays, Suya and Yaji are more available than ten years ago, and we are all better off.

In terms of form and ingredients, Suya is similar to Balinese Satay, and although there is some debate about whether or not peanuts and peanut butter have a tenderizing effect, I think Suya answers the question with a resounding yes. And while the best Suya is wrapped in Paper – formerly newspaper – or aluminum foil and served under the mantle of the evening, preparing a batch of Yajin Kuli and grilling Suya are not out of reach if you are far from a good suya place.

Yajin Kuli has a unique, smoky and complex taste. It can be found more and more often in West African stores, both bodily and online. I lived abroad for many years and one night eleven years ago, when I was living in the Netherlands and I was homesick for an empty jar of Yajin Kuli, I decided to create a Yajin Kuli Marinade instead of a dry rub with homemade peanut butter (roasted peanuts To my surprise, it was a success.

Since then, I have changed the recipe by turning to peanut butter powder and combining it with ginger powder, sweet paprika, onion and garlic powder, the musky floral notes of the ground grains of Selim and cloves and a little Cayenne pepper for a kick. It is a nutty, spicy, spicy and slightly sweet coating that goes as well with chicken, fish or even vegetables as with more traditional thinly sliced beef. Once the meat is marinated, it is strung on skewers and placed on the direct heat of a grill; the rubbing caramelizes and takes on a little smoke, and it is ready in no time. Add the sweetness of fresh tomatoes, the bite of sliced red onions and my personal favorites (although not traditional), the crunchy lettuce, cilantro and lime wedges — and you’re all set. Sliced cucumbers, cabbage and sometimes carrots also make worthy side dishes.

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