Suya is a spicy Nigerian delicacy of grilled meat. However, because it’s grilled meat doesn’t mean you can recreate it easily. It takes years of apprenticeship and upskilling to become a grand suya master.
Everyone has a favourite suya guy, the one that gets everything just right; a delicate mix of the right texture, taste, and spiciness thanks to the open secret of yaji. If anything is missing, sorry, that’s not suya. That’s just grilled meat. Your suya guy or mai suya determines if you get high-quality suya or if you’re just eating heated meat. There are some bright red flags you should look out for when choosing your suya guy.
1. If he opens in the afternoon
Suya? In the afternoon? Anything you see, take it like that.
2. If he does not give you tasting
Tasting is the customary practice of the mai suya giving a piece of meat to you the minute you arrive at his stand. This seemingly simple act serves other purposes. First, it is a friendly welcome. Second, it establishes the relationship between you and the mai suya for the purpose of that transaction. It is also a means to gauge how good the suya is and help you determine how much you’re buying, even though you can feel the 200 naira you intended to use to buy the suya pressing against your thigh.
If he doesn’t give you tasting, it means he does not like you. Or it could mean his suya really sucks or he is just bad vibes. Whichever way, look out for this major red flag.
3. If he doesn’t have a gas lamp
Gas lamps are a signature tool for mai suyas, dating back through time. While many mai suyas are adopting technology and bulbs and rechargeable lamps, the best of them still use the gas lantern. Quote me anywhere.
4. If the suya burns his hands
With suya, experience is important. If your suya guy is doing “yeeish” when he touches a hot piece of meat, it means his hands are not experienced enough. Not a major red flag, but be on the lookout.
5. If there’s nobody at his stand
If he’s alone, not selling suya to anybody, then his suya probably sucks. I don’t make the rules. An ideal crowd of three or four people at the stand is a perfect number. Not too crowded, but enough to know that his market is in demand.
6. If he’s not Hausa/Fulani
Suya is a traditional Hausa/Fulani delicacy. Any other tribe attempting to recreate the magnificence will fail woefully at it.