Nigeria’s Secret: Suya Spice

I didn’t appreciate the nostalgic memories the ingredients which make up Suya Spice conjured  up for Nigerian’s living in diaspora, that is until this weekend at the door step of my home.

Suya (sooya) is West Africa’s shish kebab with a dry rub of nuts and spices. It is believed that Suya originated with the Hausa people (located in Northern Nigeria), nevertheless it’s popularity has spread and is now a visible part of Nigeria’s large towns and cities thanks to the many street vendors who work the grills till way into the night.

Suya is usually made with lean cuts of beef, however now that the spice has come into its own, it has been used to liven up roast potatoes and marinade chicken or fish for example.

So let’s breakdown some of the unique ingredients:

Kuli Kuli (peanut stick)

IMG_3979 (1)

The peanut flavour of Suya comes in the form of a fried ground peanut paste known popularly as ‘Kuli Kuli’ (see picture). When crushed, the kuli kuli  or peanut sticks turns into a smooth powder or peanut flour. In essence, kuli kuli is a peanut powder obtained through the extraction of oil from crushed peanuts. The nut powder is made into round peanut balls and then fried. Once cooled the nut balls are once again crushed to make the suya spice. If you are lucky enough, you will be able to get your hands on some kuli kuli from your local African market (mine were purchased in Ridley Market, Hackney).

If you can’t get your hands on any  then crush some roasted salted peanuts in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. A word of caution – you are NOT making peanut butter! I’m being very serious – try not to over process it into a peanut paste. If this happens, simply place the nuts into a tea towel and then press by placing a heavy chopping board or cast iron pot on top to ease the oil out. If that attempt fails, then be satisfied with Suya paste rather than powder which works just as well if you are using other fresh ingredients (such as onion, ginger and garlic). The trouble is it won’t last as long as the powder.

Negro Black Pepper (Udo) aka ‘SpiderLegs’

What do you call this spice in your language? I’m told it’s known as Uda in Igbo, Eeru in Yoruba and Chimba in Hausa. I prefer the nostalgic name ‘Spiderleg’ as used by my friend Alicia (who owns the Ghanaian Street Food Stall Chalé! (she serves very tasty Ghanian cuisine cooked by her very own hands every Sunday, Chatsworth Market, Hackney).

Now to get my hands on some ‘Spiderlegs’. In London. Right now. I had set myself up for the challenge, there were to be no substitutions, I mean after hearing so much about it, what could really replace the unique woody smell and peppery taste of the Uda pod? It put the ‘spice’ in Suya?! So I was told. I had to find out. It HAD to be somewhere in London with such a large Nigerian community, somebody’s Auntie had it. So I sent out a message on twitter, sounding like a right old novice:

“Can anyone help? I’m looking for these two ingredients: Kuli Kuli and Uda/ Negro Black Pepper”

Literally without exaggeration within 30 minutes, I was contacted by AfroExpress (a London based company that makes home deliveries of African groceries) with pictures of the said items they had sourced. Before 4pm the same day they were at my door with the ingredients! I couldn’t believe it! I burst the packet of ‘spiderlegs’ open (ok that sounds gross but stick with me) and the smell hit me: smoky, woody, dark, peppery pods. Then I opened the bottle of Kuli Kuli: intense nutty aroma. At last! The final pieces of the puzzle were now in place, it was time to assemble the spice blend:

 

INGREDIENTS

5 tbsp crushed Kuli Kuli (or crushed roasted peanuts)
5 tbsp ginger powder*
2 tbsp cayenne pepper flakes
10 strands of African Negro Pepper or Uda
2 tbsp garlic powder*
1 tbsp Smokey Paprika powder
2 tbsp onion powder*
1 small stock cube
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp salt

*If making a paste, substitute the powder for the fresh ingredients, using the same measurements

METHOD:

1. Start by crushing the Kuli Kuli in the spice grinder. Once you have a coarse powder, add the remaining ingredients, one by one. It might help to slice open the uda pods to help the breaking down process. If making a paste, follow the same process, in which case a food processor would be more appropriate.

2. The powder can be stored in a airtight container for up to 3 weeks, the Suya paste, no more than 2 days I would say.

Check back later where I will be sharing my version of Suya Popcorn Chicken!

 

Chinese Pot Stickers

IMG_2832Ah! The day I discovered pot stickers: I was introduced to these fancy dumplings by a close Malaysian friend of mine who also shares my fascination with food from around the world. She told me about a restaurant off Liverpool Street in London called Ping Pong who apparently churned out these steamed parcels all day and night.

It happened to be Chinese New Year 2013 celebrations that weekend, so when we discovered that Ping Pong were also throwing together ‘Dumpling Classes’ to celebrate the year of the Snake, we signed up straight away. In the end we didn’t end up going…pretty much how most of my adventures with my friend ended up, but I did manage to persuade another friend of mine to try the restaurant out. Setting: Ping Pong Restaurant; In the midst of our discourse about the failing economy, social injustice and men our intense conversation was interrupted by these delicate yet crispy parcels correctly entitled Gyoza’s. Here begginneth my relationship with the Pot Sticker.

Pot Stickers

  • Servings: 30
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

½ cup (or 4) Spring Onions finely chopped

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms

2 cups Chinese white cabbage, finely shredded

1 cup carrots, grated

2-3 garlic cloves chopped

1 sachet black bean sauce (120g)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 package round gyoza skins or wonton wrappers (around 30)

Salt to taste

1 egg (whisked) or water (in a bowl)

Vegetable Stock cube or jelly

In a Wok or large saute pan, add a little oil and saute garlic and ginger. Add the mushrooms and stir.

Add the cabbage, carrots and onion. Keep frying until the mixture is soft, and then place in colander to drain. IMG_2816Save the drained liquid.

Stir in the black bean sauce little by little, just enough to taste, you don’t want soggy vegetables or a puddle of black bean juice.

Add the sesame oil when mixture is cooled. Check for seasoning. Set aside to cool down.

Lightly flour your chopping or side board.

Take a gyoza skin, lay flat on board. Take a level teaspoon of the vegetables making sure you get a good mix and place in centre of circle.

Then take egg wash or water and wash the circumference of the skin (always wanted to say that word).

Now fold the wrapper in half like an envelope, sealing it to form a half-moon shape, keeping the bottom flat.

Then pinching the corner (I start with the right) fold the corner inwards, like making a paper fan, pressing each fold gently.

 

IMG_2819In a hot non-stick pan, coat with oil and place dumplings.

When bottom gets brown, mix together the drained liquid from earlier with the vegetable stock jelly (should make up 1/4 cup of liquid all together), taste and add water if necessary.

Pour over the frying dumplings and cover immediately.

This will steam the dumplings. Carefully watch the dumplings and completely evaporate the water so that the bottom gets crispy again and sticks to the pot.

Serve with Soya Sauce or any dipping sauce of your choice.