Based no more than a 3-minute walk from Cornbrook tram station, in possibly one of Manchester’s most arbitrary districts, is traditional Nigerian street food restaurant, Suya Republick. It sits opposite an antique centre, and in between a number of other takeaways and derelict former stores, and, if you’re a sucker for charcoaled meats – this place is a must-visit.
The business was set up 2 years ago by owner, Jeremiah Blaq after he lost his job in IT. Growing up in Nigeria, his childhood was massively food-centric and focused on big sharing platters and social dining, in which flavour never took a compromise – something that he wanted to bring to Manchester.
Jeremiah recalls his Dad hosting huge dinners for his friends every weekend in the family garden, just one of the many aspects of his heritage that he drew inspiration from for his own restaurant and cheffing style. “He would buy a whole lamb and cook it over charcoal and I was always the boy they’d send on errands. I’d grab the spices and look after everyone whilst he did the hosting.
“I’ve tried to replicate the street food feel and flavours that my family used, as I realised there was a big gap in the market for our cuisine here in Manchester. My mum is also an amazing cook who owns quite a few restaurants in Africa, so you could say I learned from the best!”
When Jeremiah first moved to the UK, he studied IT Management at The University of Bradford. Soon after finishing his degree, he moved to Manchester where he began a job in his associated field and was a firm favourite with his colleagues after introducing them to family recipes and the famous Suya.
Suya is the bread and butter of his restaurant, as the name itself illustrates. The dish is a traditional street food staple of Nigeria, which is cooked atop charcoal and rubbed with the aromatic Suya spices.
Garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper and a unique blend Jeremiah gets imported from Africa are just some of the ingredients that make up the mix, which you can choose to pair with either beef, lamb or chicken. Suya Republick also offers a box that includes a big feast of all three meats alongside fried rice, jollof rice and plantain.
The meat is tender and smokey, all down to the restaurant’s ‘strictly charcoal’ cooking method. “It really enhances the flavour this way and gives all of my dishes that authentic, African vibe. This just isn’t achievable with gas and I do think it’s what keeps our customers coming back,” furthered Jeremiah.
Also on the menu are Lagos Shawarmas, which are warm, charcoal grilled breads filled with different veggies, sauces and sausages. Most traditionally, chicken sausages make up the dish, but Suya Republick also offers a beef option, too. This is then served alongside fried yam – a delicious alternative to chips that even have added health benefits of a reduction in inflammation, improved blood sugar control and even improved brain health (apparently).
When Suya Republick opened its doors, Jeremiah was hit with over 300 orders on his first day, reinforcing his already preconceived notion that the people of Manchester were desperate for some authentic Nigerian food. Since then, the restaurant has continued to serve its surrounding community with an array of alternative dishes and spices that you’ll rarely find anywhere else in the city.
Another recent addition to the restaurant’s menu is ‘Asun’, a dish that’s made with scotch bonnet peppers and charcoaled goat meat. Again, originating in Nigeria, it’s not for the faint hearted as it’s an incredible smokey and spicy dish that is usually served at parties and family gatherings. “We marinate the meat for no less than 24 hours before cooking,” he said. “It’s a very spicy dish, so martinating it brings out all of the deeper flavours once it’s popped on the charcoal grill.”
As we wrapped up our conversation, Jeremiah offered me a bottle of Zobo, a Nigerian staple drink with a unique, rich flavour full of unexpected spice bursts. Made from grape, hibiscus and a blend of ginger and cloves, many believe that the drink itself has healing properties, as it’s said to lower blood pressure, improve circulation and also reduce anxiety.
“There’s a lot ingrained in Nigerian culture that food has healing properties, that’s why my menu uses a lot of fresh and nutritious ingredients because we eat for health, as well as for pleasure.”
If you’re looking to try some authentic Nigerian street food steeped in tradition and a passion for fresh, healthy ingredients, make sure you pay Jeremiah a visit. Suya Republick is open Tuesday – Sunday 5pm – 11pm and you can check out the restaurant’s full menu below.