You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding Tasty Suya at a festival around Melbourne: follow the enticing smell of grilled beef and look for a crowd surrounding a barbecue.
There’s something about cooking meat on a grill that tends to bring people together, and that’s no different with suya. Originating from West Africa, suya is meat (beef, chicken, lamb, goat, etc) that has been marinated and grilled. The meat is generally halal and often skewered, though not always.
The founder of Tasty Suya, Leo Chofor, grew up in Cameroon, where suya was one of his favourite street foods. “Cameroon is very rich in terms of diversity, especially with food. There are quite a few ethnic groups, I think about 240 tribes within the country, and every tribe has an identity when it comes to food,” he explains.
Suya recipes vary between countries, regions and even families. Chofor loves to cook beef, like his grandfather. “The suya recipe we’re introducing in Australia is a very unique one. The recipe is derived from my grandfather, who got it from his father. My grandfather would make that recipe when we’d have special guests come over, he wouldn’t just do it every day,” he says.
Bringing people together
Chofor first started making suya in Melbourne as a way to get his family and friends together. Working long hours as an accountant and in construction, he barely had the time to see his loved ones.
“I’d have Sunday off, but I couldn’t visit everybody so I thought I’d do something that would bring everybody to me. My family and friends could see each other and mingle and socialise,” he says.
“I grew up loving cooking and having this talent so I thought I’d use this to bring my friends and family closer. It became a Sunday thing, ‘barbecue at Leo’s place’, and everyone looked forward to that.”
With Tasty Suya, Chofor is bringing the spirit of these gatherings to all of Melbourne.
Introducing suya to Melbourne
Just like in Cameroon, it all starts with the marinade. Large pieces of beef are marinated for 24 to 48 hours in a mix of spices and herbs, including parsley, country onion and celery.
The beef is then cooked over a wood-fired grill, and sliced into small pieces. At home, Chofor cooks on a drum barbecue, similar to the one his grandfather owned in Cameroon. But for Tasty Suya, he uses a custom-built barbecue, which is bigger and mobile.
The seasoned beef is served straight from the grill, tender and juicy. The classic way of eating it is with raw onion. You can also have it with coconut fried rice and fried plantain, or in a roll.
A self-serve station lets you add sauces and spices to your plate. Chofor’s favourite is the herb-based green “Tasty Sauce”, which is mild and refreshing. He says that the fiery red chilli sauce has been a big hit: “Aussies love the barbecue and love our sauces. We realised that a lot of Aussies can really handle the chilli, no matter how aggressive it is.”
Tasty Suya offers private catering around Melbourne. Chofor also cooks at events like the Queen Victoria Market’s Summer Night Market on Wednesday evenings, and the African Music and Culture Festival on 14 December.
A one-pot wonder, this key to this flavourful stew is a homemade African seasoning.
Chermoula is a vibrant North-African sauce that can transform the simple into the sublime. Some roast vegetables would be the perfect accompaniment with this couscous for a vegetarian main.
The best thing about Moroccan and North African cooking is that balance between sweet, sour and spice and this dish covers all those bases. #RecipeForLife