Suya: the next kebab?

One of the great things about the world getting smaller and everyone getting all mixed up is that we can try fast food from all different cultures. Take suya, for example. I’d never heard of this Nigerian fast food until I lived in London.

My house was on the northern end of Old Kent Road. This area has a large population of African immigrants. I met people from Nigeria, Ghana, and Ethiopia, and I’m sure many other countries are represented. The Nigerians were very visible with lots of restaurants selling suya. It’s like shish kebab with beef, chicken, goat, or fish. The meat is rubbed with tankora powder. There are various recipes for tankora and generally include red pepper, powdered nuts, salt, ginger, paprika, and onion powder. Check out this tankora recipe if you want to try it at home.

As you can imagine, it’s pretty thirst inducing. Luckily many suya restaurants serve palm wine, a smooth, tasty alcoholic drink that’s not too strong. Many restaurants also have live music. West African music is very participatory, with the singer pointing to various members of the audience and staff and making up verses about them. I always got included but not knowing any West African languages I had no idea what the singers said. :-)

I’m thinking suya could replace kebab, which is currently the snack food of choice in London, especially at two o’clock in the morning after ten pints of lager. I’ve never liked kebab, which in most places is unhealthy and more than a little nasty, so suya would make the perfect replacement. It’s filling, salty, and quick, all the things you need after a good pub crawl, and with live music and palm wine thrown in, it makes the perfect end (or start!) to a fun evening out.

This photo, courtesy secretlondon123, shows some of Presidential Suya’s takeaway, with beef suya on the left and chicken suya on the right. Presidential Suya is one of my favorite West African restaurants in London.

Cheap, tasty Indian food in London

Indian food in London is often mediocre and overpriced, and a good curry joint is as highly prized as a traditional neighborhood pub. I’ve been to a lot of Indian restaurants in London and a new discovery I made last week ranks as one of my favorites.

Simply Indian is one of those places you’ll only find if a local tells you. Located on 25 Tabard St., it’s away from the tourist center and easy to miss. It’s poorly advertised and its website doesn’t seem to work. The food and service, however, are fantastic, and that’s all that really matters.

The menu offers all the usual favorites like Chicken Jhalfrezi and Lamb Pasanda, along with less familiar fare such as Murgh Sagrana, a mild chicken dish that’s creamy and not too spicy.

“Not too spicy” is a key term here. For heat rating I ordered a medium, which in London still often means you need to call out the local fire brigade. For too many people in this town, eating curry is some sort of endurance contest, best done after fourteen pints of lager. Indian food in India is generally not like that. At Simply Indian the spices are well balanced and are there to be tasted, not simply tolerated.

The service was friendly too, with no surprises when the bill came (something to watch out for on Brick Lane) and only came to a reasonable 27 pounds for two people. They don’t have a liquor license but you can buy booze at the supermarket right around the corner and there’s no corkage fee.

If you’re going to London’s South Bank and are hankering for some good Indian food, check them out. Tucked out of the way as they are, and not catering to the after-pub crowd, I fear for their future. Competition between London’s restaurants is fierce and I hope they’re still there when I return. Their phone number is 020 7407 5006.

[Photo courtesy Fin Fahey]