The rapper and self-taught chef talks Jamaican food and his Lebanese and Sierra Leonean heritage.
As told toFarida Zeynalova
Published January 6, 2024
• 7 min read
This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).
I grew up with African food, but in a Lebanese way.
Let’s take my mum’s okra stew — the African version is filled with fried fish, cow foot, sheep tail, oxtail and beef all in one stew — while Lebanese cooking is quite simplistic and based around fresh salads and grills, that sort of stuff. So, the stew she’d make would have none of that, just beef, and it wouldn’t be made with palm oil. It was African food but in a tame way, because of my Lebanese dad. Whenever my mum makes it, I go absolutely mental — it warms up your belly, is full of good nutrients and is a different flavour to anything you’ve ever had before. My grandma once made it in Freetown, Sierra Leone, with fufu (pounded cassava root and green plantains, rolled into small balls) — proper authentic. I choked on a fish bone but it was the best meal I’ve ever had.
Mulukhiyah is one of my favourite Lebanese dishes.
It’s a green stew filled with lemon and herbs — it’s amazing. I was at a restaurant the other day and the guy told me it’s actually Egyptian, but we love it in Lebanese culture and eat it all the time.
I learned how to cook by watching a lot of shows like Sunday Brunch.
When I started cooking on my own, I’d make breakfast for me and my friends. I did GCSE Food Technology at secondary school which taught me how to cook properly.
Making someone feel loved through your food — that’s a big thing for me.
I feel like I do that really well. It’s the feeling of bringing everyone together, making them feel energy and beauty through the food you’re making. It’s creating something and seeing them enjoy it, that’s my favourite part.
Everything in Jamaica — the patties, the stews, the rice and peas — was just unbelievable.
I just came back from Kingston, and they love their food and know what they’re doing as well. There’s a place called Devon House Bakery and their curry goat patty is the best I’ve ever had. West London [where Zuu is from] is synonymous with Jamaican food and culture, so I’ve always grown up eating Caribbean food, but actually having it in Jamaica was unbelievable. Something like rice and peas with oxtail was just out of this universe, you know what I’m saying?
If I had to relate to any ingredient, it’d be a tomato.
I love them so much — they’re humble, versatile and always needed in the fridge. They’re the base of so many dishes, whether it’s an African stew, spaghetti bolognese, a salsa… they’re used across the world in so many ways. They come in different shapes and sizes, and when they’re canned, they taste even better; their puree is so important, too — I find them incredible.
We’re very lucky in London with how much access we have to food from around the world.
I really like Malaysian food — roti, curries, noodles, it’s all incredible. I like Roti King — they have one in Brent Cross and I just ordered it for lunch. Iranian food is up there for me as well, their breads are taking the piss — they’re always unbelievable. Reyhoon in Golders Green has incredible kebabs. One of my all-time favourite places is Lebanese Grill Express, just off Hatton Garden. You can get half chicken, chips and rice for £8 — it’s 10/10.
I proper want to go to Pakistan — it’s been on my list for a long time.
It’s a very meaty place, so I want to go and eat all the meat, biryani, the curries, all of it. I want to do that part of Asia — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and taste all the different types of food.
12 Dishes, Big Zuu’s new TV series, will be available to watch on ITV1 and ITVX in 2024.
Published in Issue 22 (winter 2023) of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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