[Photographs: Sho Spaeth]

I ponder whether there’s one thing odd about skewers that explains why such a lot of in their names start with “s,” a idea that happened to me on one freezing evening at a Christmas marketplace in Cologne, Germany, when temperatures skirted minus 13 levels centigrade and I encountered the Russian skewers referred to as shashlik for the primary time. There are shish kebabs, after all, which originated in Turkey and at the moment are standard of Middle Eastern, Eastern Mediterranean, and South Asian cuisines; there’s South African sosatie, Indonesian sate, Greek souvlaki, and the rods of spiedie in New York. And then there’s Nigeria’s suya.

Suya is Nigerian boulevard meals at its best—assume nutty, highly spiced pork, threaded onto skewers then grilled, the completed sticks cradled in paper or foil with a facet of clean tomatoes, sliced purple onions, and a sprinkling of yajin kuli. Yajin kuli is constructed from yaji—a mix of chiles, ginger, garlic, onions, salt and different spices—and floor kuli kuli, which is basically dehydrated and defatted groundnut (peanut) paste. Suya originated within the north of Nigeria, the place the data and mastery of meat is 2d to none.

Kuli kuli is made by means of grinding roasted groundnuts till the combination virtually reaches a nut butter consistency. Often floor chiles and ginger are incorporated within the combine. Water is added after which the combination is kneaded to shape a dough, and, within the procedure, the oil—groundnut oil—is expelled. The ensuing dough is formed into sticks, balls, crackers, and different shapes and deep fried in groundnut oil. The procedure stabilizes the kuli kuli and it may be stored at room temperature with out going rancid.

For a long time, Nigerians within the south of the rustic—like me—were given our suya and yaji from mallams, pastoral nomads from the north versed within the artwork and spice of meat preservation. They journeyed around the nation leaving fit for human consumption trails of suya spots throughout Nigeria and West Africa. Growing up, you must simplest purchase suya within the night, for the reason that mallams spent all day prepping—chopping the beef, dredging it within the yajin kuli, and grilling the beef (it’s commonplace to grill the beef two times: as soon as to cook dinner it, on the other hand simply prior to serving). These days, each suya and yaji are extra to be had than they have been a decade in the past and we’re all as a result of it.

In shape and elements, suya is very similar to Balinese sate, and whilst there’s a debate about whether or not or no longer peanuts and peanut butter have a tenderizing effect, I consider suya solutions the query with a powerful sure. And whilst the most efficient suya is wrapped in paper—previously newspaper—or foil and served beneath the cloak of night, in the event you’re caught at house, as all of us are, a long way from a just right suya spot, creating a batch of yajin kuli and grilling suya aren’t from your succeed in.

Yajin kuli has a singular, smoky, and complicated taste. It’s more and more commonplace to search out it in West African retail outlets, each bodily and on-line. I’ve lived in another country for a few years and one evening 11 years in the past after I lived within the Netherlands, homesick with an empty jar of yajin kuli, I made up our minds to check out to create a yajin kuli marinade as an alternative of a dry rub by means of the usage of do-it-yourself groundnut butter (roasted, unsalted groundnuts mixed with groundnut oil). To my wonder, it was once a luck.

I’ve since altered the recipe by means of turning to peanut butter powder, combining it with powdered ginger, candy paprika, onion and garlic powders, the musky floral notes of floor grains of selim and cloves, and a bit of little bit of cayenne for some kick. It’s a nutty, highly spiced, tangy, and mildly candy coating that’s as just right with rooster, fish, and even some greens as it’s with the extra conventional thinly sliced pork. After the beef is marinated, it’s threaded on skewers and positioned over the direct warmth of a grill; the rub caramelizes and takes on slightly of smokiness, and it’s able very quickly. Add candy recent tomatoes, the chunk of thinly sliced purple onions and my non-public, if untraditional, favorites: crisp lettuce, cilantro, and wedges of lime, and also you’re able. Sliced cucumber, cabbage, and, from time to time, carrots additionally shape worthy facets.

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