Lagos: A Smoky and Spicy Kebab Hot Spot

Customers line up for one thing only at the Ikoyi Hotel Suya Spot: kebabs. i i

Customers line up for one thing only at the Ikoyi Hotel Suya Spot in Lagos: meaty, aromatic kebabs. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR
Customers line up for one thing only at the Ikoyi Hotel Suya Spot: kebabs.

Customers line up for one thing only at the Ikoyi Hotel Suya Spot in Lagos: meaty, aromatic kebabs.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR
The kebab sellers are Muslims from northern Nigeria. i i

The kebab sellers at the outdoor eatery are Muslims from northern Nigeria, where the country's best grilled meat is prepared. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR
The kebab sellers are Muslims from northern Nigeria.

The kebab sellers at the outdoor eatery are Muslims from northern Nigeria, where the country's best grilled meat is prepared.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR
After an order is grilled, onions i i

Sliced onions are added to the grilled meats. Tomatoes are another optional addition. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR
After an order is grilled, onions

Sliced onions are added to the grilled meats. Tomatoes are another optional addition.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR
A colorful mix of spices flavor the kebabs. i i

A colorful mix of spices flavor the meat. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR
A colorful mix of spices flavor the kebabs.

A colorful mix of spices flavor the meat.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR
After all the toppings are added, the sizzling mix is wrapped up in old newspapers. i i

After all the toppings are added, the sizzling mix is wrapped up in old newspapers. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR
After all the toppings are added, the sizzling mix is wrapped up in old newspapers.

After all the toppings are added, the sizzling mix is wrapped up in old newspapers.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR

The Ikoyi Hotel Suya Spot in Lagos, Nigeria, is not for the fainthearted — or for vegetarians. The kebab eatery located in the parking lot of the famed, British-colonial-era hotel offers up deliciously spiced meat — and plenty of it.

You'll find the Ikoyi Hotel nestled in a comparatively quiet and leafy corner of Nigeria's otherwise bustling and noisy commercial capital.

But the Suya Spot — suya means "to fry" or "fried meat" in Hausa, the dominant language of northern Nigeria — has more in common with Lagos at large than this genteel corner: It's noisy, steamy, hot and humid.

There is one giant, outdoor barbecue grill, with a large kiosk behind it that doubles as pantry and kitchen. There are no fancy tables, no drinks or anything other than the kebabs for sale: Just line up, wait your turn to be served, and drink in the spicy smoke and the ambiance.

The clientele for the scrumptious, meaty morsels ranges from tired office workers to business executives to the local youth from miles around.

The kebab sellers are Muslims from northern Nigeria, where the country's best grilled meat is prepared. These outdoor chefs operate with skill and speed, sweating copiously, juggling orders (and a few insults) and shouts from all directions, while counting their handmade kebab sticks.

The men have neither the time nor inclination to humor their customers. But regulars, and those who make an attempt to speak Hausa, seem to get preferential treatment.

What's on the menu? Pieces of beef, liver, kidney, chicken gizzards, shaki (tripe), gristle, "coat" (cowhide) and other cuts of meat and offal you might never have known existed. Smaller kebabs cost about 80 cents each, while the larger sizes are about double that — with a premium on shaki and gristle.

All are grilled over an open fire, after basting with a mixture of oils and spices, which include cayenne pepper, paprika, onions, kulikuli (ground peanuts), ground ginger and cinnamon. The aroma is both pungent and fragrant.

A shout here, an order there, a friendly insult or some teasing thrown in, thanks proffered, and — bam! — your order of skewered meat is ready for expert slicing on well-worn cutting boards with what could pass as slim daggers.

Add sliced onions and tomatoes and then, if you like, more of that rust-mustard-colored cocktail of spices and chilies. Then, the sizzling mix is wrapped up into a neat packet made of old newspapers.

So for a full-sensory, truly moveable feast, show up and wait your turn to savor a bundle of freshly grilled meat that's a must for visitors to Nigeria.

Ikoyi Hotel's Suya Spot — 19 Kingsway Rd., Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria. Open evenings from about 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. No reservations.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.