I love suya. Everyone does. It is one of those things that is uniquely Nigerian but not complicated. It is easy to understand. Many of our things are complex, let’s not lie. ‘Are you well?’ does not in inquire after your happiness, but after your mental health in the most derogatory way. ‘My friend’ is not a term of endearment but a grave warning, when someone is annoying you, and all you can see is a vision of you slapping their face HARD. We are a complex, paradoxical people and we manage to store and apply huge volumes of social lexicon with such relative ease.
My sister’s boyfriend who is English came to Lagos to visit her recently and it has been fascinating seeing Lagos and Nigeria in general through his eyes; experiencing my own version of normalcy through the lens of his novelty. It is so fascinating. I had forgotten how much automatic translation we all do; how spontaneously we interpret words and actions and categorise them appropriately based on our own understanding of the status quo. If I had to pick just one of the most interesting things that I have had to evaluate, through having to explain to him, it would be the explaining of the difference between ‘ehn’, ‘ehehn’ , ‘ehn ehn’ and ‘eeeehn’. Any and all of these can be conciliatory, aggressive, acquiescent, taunting, jovial, simply emphatic, sincere, or willfully dishonest depending entirely on how they are said and what facial expressions are employed while doing so. I love that our use of the English language is so peppered with inflection; so fluid, and expressive, so versatile, and so open to interpretation. It is great. If you can step outside of yourself and appraise it, it is really quite fascinating and clever how we communicate. Words alone mean nothing. Meaning is conveyed via words, facial expression, hand gestures, eyes, tone, posture; with two or more working in tandem to convey true intention.
In all of this complexity, the two things he has come to view as due north, as simple, universal and without grave political consequence are suya and beer. Suya and Star are a pair you can always interpret and proffer. They make everything okay. With them, you can always find common ground and build from there. I find it so charming that our food wields cultural influence in that way. I mean, even Jamie gets it. He really put his back into it and attempted to make his own suya spice from scratch! (OMG small famz – did I ever tell you guys that his producers contacted me while they were researching suya recipes ahead of the show where he cooked beef suya for Tinie Tempah? I swear I almost fainted when I saw the email!)
That said, this current version of suya was not inspired by Nick, but by my wanting to dress suya up in a prom dress. Nick’s appreciation of suya merely reminded me of what a treasure we have, that we just take for granted. For instance I made this dish a few months ago, way before he arrived and I completely forgot to post it! Finally, I must confess that this dish was also inspired by one lonely avocado that was looking rather doleful in the bottom of the fridge. I often feel sorry for ingredients when they have been left unloved and ignored for a while. I feel guilty and then I have to do something special with them.
Without further ado, I present to you
Minjiba’s Chicken Suya in a Freakum Dress Chicken Suya and Avocado Salsa in Little Gem Lettuce Parcels.
As you can see in the recipe below, I used a ready made/store bought suya spice. I got this from the Village Market section of Ebeano Supermarket in Lekki 1. I’ve bought it a couple of times now and I really like it because it tastes authentic. If you want to make your own suya spice from scratch, check out the links below: