The Malagueta pepper hovers somewhere around the 100,000 Scoville Units mark and wasn’t hot enough for some Portuguese so they played around with the pepper to come up with a hotter version. Once the pepper reached almost double that of the Malagueta Pepper at 175,000 Scovilles the Portuguese felt it was hot enough and stopped tampering with it.
It is there in the Portuguese-speaking Mozambican community that the pepper’s name was borrowed from the Swahili word for “pepper,” Pili. The Portuguese being world-famous navigators, pilots, and traders brought it to many of their colonies, territories, and trading partners, particularly India. From there it spread over generations throughout the Portuguese-speaking world wherever it may be.
Anywhere that becomes a colony inevitably merges the cuisine of the two cultures (French-Vietnamese cuisine being an exemplar) so, of course, Portuguese-Mozambique cuisine would inevitably spring up. Has anyone on the SouthCoast not had Chicken or Shrimp Mozambique?! One thing I have been puzzled about is why Mozambique Wings are not ubiquitous here on the SouthCoast, but I digress.
The sauce itself is comprised of crushed Piri-Piri peppers combined with paprika, basil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, tarragon, salt, onion, black pepper, and a bit of citrus peel. Of course, there are some minor variations of this, but these ingredients are the core. Some brands may favor a particular ratio or perhaps make theirs hotter than others. It’s similar to red sauce in Italian households (not in flavor) in that there are endless variants and ratios of what is just a “simple” sauce.
When it comes to making dishes from recipes the sauce’s best compliments are chicken and shrimp, but the sauce can be used as a dipping sauce on the side or just squirted right from a bottle of your preferred brand. It will brighten up just about any dish. If you like Tabasco or Sriracha sauce, you will fall in love with Piri-Piri sauce. Accompany with a side of Portuguese round fries and you are in foodie heaven.
The best place I’ve been to that has an amazing Piri-Piri sauce is Novo Mondo restaurant and if you’ve ever been there…you know how addicting it is. If not, ask around.
Do you love Piri-Piri? Do you have a favorite brand and/or do you make your own? Let us know in the comments so others can benefit.