piri piri sauce

I have always been fascinated by what people eat in different parts of the world. Is it similar to what my family eats, if not ,what are the differences ?? What veggies and fruits are local , how did that dish evolve ??? I read cookbooks like I read novels. V is now used to it…..at first he found it a little disconcerting…..my obsession with food…..but after 14 years, you get used to things, I suppose !!!!!

I have read a lot of books on the many cuisines of the world…… European, Asian, South American but two have always eluded me in the past……African and Australian. Last year, I read a book by Marcus Samuelsson on his journey in Africa thru food. Around the same time, I saw Anthony Bourdain travel to Mozambique and a couple of other African countries , on “No Reservations “ …..reruns of course !!!! More than the recipes, I was struck by the fusion that is African cuisine, so many influences by all the people who had conquered their lands and by the people who came there for work !! The French, the Dutch, the Portuguese, the Arabs and those who went there for work….. the Indian subcontinent and south east Asia. One of the recipes that did catch my interest was PIRI PIRI SAUCE.  What is it , you ask ??? It is the ubiquitous hot sauce found on almost every table in Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa. Many claim it is Mozambique’s national dish !!! It is hot, fragrant, fiery and vibrant !!!

Did you know that scholars think that the Portuguese were the ones who introduced the chilli peppers to the new world ??? It came to them from the Americas and in return when they travelled to Africa and India ,they carried the chilli pepper with them and now those countries are known for their fiery cuisines !!!! It is a chilli pepper found growing wild in many parts of Southern Africa , though now it is being cultivated . It is commonly known a the Peri Peri pepper . Piri -Piri basically means “pepper pepper “. It is the spelling of the name used by the Portuguese speaking communities from Mozambique. I think its called the Ronda language ! You cannot eat a meal there without this sauce !! Another name for it is Pili Pili which is Swahili for pepper pepper !!!

It started out as a seasoning and marinade for meats but has gradually evolved into a hot sauce. It is hot….hot even for me !!!! You cannot get piri piri peppers here but red birds eye chillies or thai bird chillies……the tiny ones are an acceptable alternative. Did you know that smaller the chilli, the hotter it is ??  Anyway, there are numerous recipes with each family claiming their way is the best. I basically used the one that I thought was the easiest and also simple. It may or may not be authentic but it was fabulous !!!

piri piri sauce

I used less chilli peppers and more of the other ingredients. I like heat in my food but I have found that as the years pass ,my tolerance for heat is slowly declining !!!! If you like it hot, go for it but it can be adjusted to your taste without losing the flavor !!! I did not blend my ingredients , I just pulsed them in a processor so it had a little more texture. Mine was a cross between a hot sauce and a chimichurri in appearance !! Since I did not use all the chillies, it wasn’t red either !! The recipe calls for 8-10, I think I used only 2-3 . You can also use a mix of thai bird chillies and red jalapeños. Many recipes use parsley so if you are one of the people who don’t like cilantro use parsley !!

It is piquant from the lemon ,which awakens your senses .It has a fruity heat from the chillies and a freshness from the cilantro. It is highly addictive and makes you salivate in your mouth !!!! The south African chain of restaurants called “Nando’s “ uses it to marinate grilled chicken. I use it as a marinade for grilled veggies. I season roasted potatoes with this sauce. I add some of this sauce to mayo and use it as a dip for french fries ……yes, I like mayo with my fries, which is why I don’t eat it often !!!! I also use the mayo as a spread for sandwiches and wraps. You can also use it to flavor couscous !!! 


8-10 red Thai Bird Chillies

½ cup Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed

¼ cup Cilantro

2-3 Garlic Cloves, peeled

½ cup Olive Oil

½ tsp Pepper

¾ tsp Salt

Puree/process the chillies, cilantro, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in either a blender or food processor.

Slowly stream in the olive oil till blended or well mixed.

This is off to  ” Cooking with Herbs ” at  Lavender and Lovage.

Cooking with Herbs