Coconut rice with grilled chicken suya

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Suya is a popular street food in many parts of West Africa, with various meats coated in a mixture of spices and ground peanuts before being grilled over hot coals. Lerato's recipe for chicken suya sees thigh fillets poached and then grilled until charred, served on a bed of fragrant coconut rice.

First published in 2019

Suya is a much-loved street food of grilled meat heavily spiced with a mix of peanuts and aromatics. The suya sellers migrated with this prized dish from the Hausa north of Nigeria to the rest of the country and beyond the Sahel and Savanna regions. Fragrant coconut and heady spices with West African uda pods and roasted peanuts are the stars of this dish. I use the coconut milk and my suya spices for the aromatic rice, lightly poaching the chicken in the same broth for tenderness before grilling to give it a nice charred crust.




Coconut rice

Grilled chicken suya



Prepare a broth for the chicken and coconut rice by heating a tablespoon of coconut oil in a wide saucepan. Add the sliced onion and cook over a medium heat until softened, then add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes
Lightly toast the whole seeds in a hot dry frying pan for a minute or until darker in colour, then crush with a pestle and mortar and add to the onions. Add the curry powder and stir
Throw in the bay leaf, coconut milk, crushed whole uda pod and sea salt. Stir well, bring the broth to the boil and add the chicken thighs. Reduce heat to low, cover and poach for 5 minutes
Remove the uda pod and poached chicken from the broth with a slotted spoon and place in a colander to drain
For the coconut rice, rinse the rice, drain well and add to the coconut broth. Cook tightly covered over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the chopped carrots and green beans, then cook for a further 5 minutes
Check the rice for doneness and, if needed, add 100–200ml of water at a time. Continue to cook until the rice is tender. Once cooked, sprinkle with chopped spring onions and fluff the rice with a fork
For the suya, dry roast the peanuts in a hot frying pan until golden then crush into a fine powder using a pestle and mortar or food processor. Transfer to a muslin cloth and squeeze out as much oil as possible, until you are left with a cakey peanut residue
Crush the uda pods as finely as possible, separating and discarding the coarse bark. Mix the peanuts and crushed uda pods with the garlic, ginger and chilli powder, then season with sea salt. Save a tablespoon or two of the suya spices for garnish, and use the rest to coat both sides of the poached chicken thighs
Heat a grill or griddle pan until smoking hot. Brush the chicken on both sides with coconut oil and grill for 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Once cooked, remove the chicken from the grill and leave to rest. Place the beef tomatoes and onions on the grill until charred
Slice the grilled chicken into thin strips and serve with the coconut rice, char-grilled onions and tomatoes and a sprinkling of the reserved suya spices, just like you would get on the bustling streets of Lagos

Lerato is one of the strongest voices in African cuisine, known for her vibrant and wholesome food that explores the multiplicity of the rich African continent.

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