Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria in the early 1980s certain things never ceased to amaze me. One of them was the suya meat craze. It was usual to see many Hausa people in Obalenede area and Victoria Island, who didn’t look so neat in appearance, but have a throng of people in their stalls, waiting to buy some nice smelling roasted meat. I had reason to encounter them a few times as it was customary for me to accompany my dad, a soldier, to the fearsome Doddan barracks which was a fortress of the military autocrats that held sway in Nigeria at the time.
Lagos was then a little town and VI was majorly a mass of empty lands traversed by Ahmadu Bello Way. Federal Palace Hotel was the ‘Burj Jumeira’ of Nigeria.
My curiosity refused to abate. Why do these scruffy looking fellows command the desperate patronage of the big and the small; the high and mighty; all gathered as if the meat was passport to heaven? One day, I summoned courage to ask my dad. His reply was ‘oo, they are buying suya’. Suya? I said, but the sellers don’t look quite nice but my dad assured me that their product is quite delicious. I was then a pupil of Army Children School, Bonny Camp, Victoria Island, where we also lived. So one day, to quench my curiosity, my hero bought bales of Suya for a family treat on his way back from work. From that day, I fell in love with Suya.
Suya is a very popular meat snack in West Africa traditionally prepared by the Hausa people of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad. It has been with them through their remote history. According to Wikipedia, Suya is made from skewed beef, ram, chicken, kidney and liver. The meat is sliced in tiny shapes and marinated in various spices including peanut paste, salt, vegetable oil and other flavorings. The combo is then roasted with a lot of attention to prevent it from burning. The aroma is intoxicating which makes eating it a delight especially when served with slices of onions, cucumber and garnished with suya pepper.
The Suya eating tradition has passed on from generation to generation as everybody around me eats Suya including my 4 year old kid. In fact, I only recently slowed down on a daily ritual of stopping to buy suya on my way home from work. Of course, no matter what, everyone is advised to check their meat consumption for health reasons.
The price of suya is also very good compared to the satisfaction derivable from its consumption. A family of 4 can have a feast on suya of N2000 excluding the accompanying drinks depending on respective preferences.
TMO spoke with some customers at a popular Suya Spot ……. in Victoria Island and the conversations went thus:
TMO : Why do you like eating suya?
James : Ahhh. Suya is very delicious and the aroma is second to none.
TMO : Please tell us why you enjoy eating suya meat
Timothy: Suya? It’s the best thing to eat for snacking. In fact sometimes, I use it to drink garri
TMO : Why do you have to queue just to buy suya meat?
Garba : Suya meat is worth waiting for. You eat it slowly and wash it down with a bottle of beer.
Today I still pass through Obalende and VI and the tradition never seems to end. However, the suya sellers now look more decent and have made some efforts at repackaging their business. When it is well made, suya can keep you asking for more.
Surely everybody loves suya meat… What about you?
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