Friday, February 05, 2010

Recipe #40: Step-by-step Chichinga (Kyinkyinga/Tsire Suya)

Here are 2 versions of what is known in Ghana as chichinga (with the first "i" pronounced like the "i" in "it," and the second one like a long "ee", and the emphasis on the second syllable [chiCHINga]. It's also spelled "kyinkyinga," in which case the first "n" is silent. This popular street food, appetizer, and party snack is common throughout West Africa. In Nigeria this version of kebab is called  tsire suya (sooya), often shortened to simply suya.

Chichinga is commonly made from a variety of protein sources, such as liver or beef (more traditional),  and chicken (more contemporary), lamb,  or goat. I'm sure it would be possible to use vegetarian sources like mushrooms or tofu, as well. The distinctive touch comes from the rub, the tankora/yagi/chichinga powder, which includes roasted cornmeal, pulverized and fried and then re-ground peanuts, ginger, red pepper, salt, and other spices. Typically in Ghana the meats are quite tough and the chichinga are grilled for a long time so that they sometimes taste overcooked according to Western sensibilities.

Once you have purchased or prepared the powder, you're set to go.

Beef Chichinga (Version I) (enough for 3 people)

12 ounces tender beef [I used top round (London broil)]
bamboo skewers (NOT the long ones)
1/2 cup tankora powder

for the marinade:
1-2 teaspoons tomato paste
ground dried red pepper to taste (about 1/3-1/2 teaspoon)
~1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger (about 1/2 inch root, peeled)
~1/2 teaspoon fresh ground or grated or crushed garlic (about 1-2 large cloves)
about 1/4 to 1/3 onion, grated (to get 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons)
~1 teaspoon salt or seasoned salt (like spicy adobo)
~1/2 teaspoon white or black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil (I used peanut oil)

Put the skewers to soak in water at least an hour before you intend to use them (I do this for the oven when I need to broil the chichinga, but it might not be necessary on an outdoor grill). In the picture, the top shows the type of homemeade wooden skewers that are commonly used in Ghana.)
To make enough for 3 persons, use 12 ounces of tender beef with all fat trimmed off, enough to cut into about 18-21 thin strips, roughly  1/4-3/8 inches thick, and a couple of inches long and around an inch wide (you'll see both the chicken and beef strips in the picture).

Prepare the marinade and mix it together, then coat the meat evenly with it and let it sit (in the refrigerator) covered, for about half an hour or longer.

Preheat a broiler, or build a fire when you are ready to grill the chichinga. To finish the kebabs after marinating them,
put a cup of the kyinkyinga/tankora/yaji powder in a plastic or paper bag, and add about 6 pieces of the marinated meat at a time, shaking them well to coat them (in Ghana they actually coat them after they put them on the skewers, but the bag procedure works better for me. Thread 3 pieces of meat onto each skewer. Continue repeating this process untl all the meat is coated and on skewers. Do not push the meat down too tightly on the skewers.
I lightly brushed the kebabs with a little peanut oil before putting them under the broiler, turning after 5 minutes and brushing the other side lightly with oil as well, then giving them another 5 minutes or so. Since we weren't quite ready for them, I turned the broiler off and let the sit in the over for another 20 minutes or so befoe we were ready to eat.

Actually, I made 2 versions at the same time (in the picture you'll see that I had some chicken livers from the chicken that I thought about using, too, but since they would have cooked faster and I didn't want to worry about timing, I left them for another day.)

Version II (Chicken Chichinga) [also for 3 people]

This version is the identical process, but uses chicken instead of beef. Since North American chickens tend to be so soft, it is more flavorful and interesting to use a roasting (or free-range) chicken. In Ghana, I usually find the chicken version is made from white chicken breast meat, but I include a few from the darker, moister thigh meat and that works well also.

12 ounces boneless chicken (breast and/or thigh meat), cut into roughly 18-21 thin strips (as was the beef)
Follow the same procedure for marinating, coating, and grilling.

Variation: It is also possible to grill the meat directly, without using the tankora powder, but you'll be missing a treat.

Chichinga goes very well with a lager beer (like Star or Club in Ghana), or ginger beer or ginger ale or bissap.

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