Monday | July 24, 2017
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Thin-sliced meat unites all Nigeria


Associated Press

LAGOS, Nigeria — As night falls across Nigeria, men fan the flames of charcoal grills by candlelight or under naked light bulbs, the smoke rising in the air with the smell of spices and cooking meat.

Despite the sometimes intense diversity of faith and ethnicity in this nation of 160 million people, that thinly sliced meat — called suya — is eaten everywhere. By everyone. Whether from an open-air pit in the country’s Muslim north or a roadside stand in its Christian south, the food remains cheap enough for most to afford in a nation where the majority earn less than $2 a day.


Start to finish: 2 hours (30 minutes active)

Servings: 6

1/2 cup powdered peanut butter

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

2 teaspoons ground dry ginger

Kosher salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

2 pounds sirloin steak

1/4 cup peanut oil

1 large tomato

1/2 small yellow onion

1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Ground black pepper

Set an oven-safe wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Coat the rack with cooking spray.

In a wide, shallow bowl, mix together the powdered peanut butter, paprika, ginger, 2 teaspoons of salt, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the mixture.

Using a very sharp knife, cut the steak into thin slices no more than 1/4 inch thick. Thread the steak onto wooden skewers.

Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the sliced steak on both sides with peanut oil. Place each skewer over the bowl of seasoning mixture and press it onto the meat; it should be thick and almost paste-like. Arrange the steak on the rack.

Cover the steak loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 300 F.

After 30 minutes, uncover the steak and roast for 20 minutes. Flip the skewers, then roast for another 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and increase heat to 400 F. Brush the steak on both sides with a bit more oil. When the oven is at temperature, roast for another 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the steak with the reserved 2 tablespoons of seasoning mixture. Serve the steak with the tomato-onion mixture.

And for a foreign journalist who logs so much time on the road, suya remains my favorite dinner while traveling. I used to never like spicy food, but living in Nigeria forces one to make peace with a constant burning of the tongue. Some of the best can be found in the north, where much of the spice rub used to season suya — a blend of ground peanuts and red pepper — is made and shipped nationwide.

I’ve eaten succulent beef cubes, lightly seasoned, from the Bauchi Club in Bauchi, the capital of Bauchi state. I ate the best ram meat while spending days in Katsina covering the 2011 election, enjoying it underneath the bright stars of the Sahel. In Lagos, Nigeria’s megacity in its southwest, I routinely stop by the Community Club on Ikoyi Island for a few sticks of beef suya, cutting the heat of the dry rub with a beer or two after work.

Suya typically costs around