Piri piri sauce originated in Portuguese Africa – Mozambique and Angola both lay claim – and I’m so excited to try this; I love spicy food! Piri piri (also known as African Bird’s Eye) is a moderately spicy pepper – it’s not to be confused with Thai chilies (also called Bird’s Eye), which are sharper and stronger. In Mozambique, piri piri sauce is often used as a marinade for grilled shrimp or chicken – which is what I’m going try.
Finding piri piri peppers in Ottawa was a challenge – I went to a few African groceries around town and came up empty handed – no fresh, no dried, no pickled. However, I was in Bottega (an Italian grocery, of all places) and I found not just preserved piri piri peppers but a powdered seasoning too!
From the various recipes I’ve found online, Mozambican piri piri sauce tends to involve peppers, lemon juice, and garlic – it all sounds pretty good to me.
The powdered seasoning is actually from a South African company, Cape Herb & Spice, but it has the same ingredients, including piri piri peppers, garlic, and lemon.
For the homemade sauce, the best (and spiciest) recipe I could find in English was from Getaway Magazine, also from SA, based off of trips to the markets in Maputo. I had a bit of a challenge figuring out what a “tot” was for measurement (it’s 2 tbsp), and I may have popped a few more chilies than called for into the sauce (I mean it, I love spicy food). Added it all to a jar, gave it a good shake and wow, this looks fantastic – the fresh lemon juice and the garlic add flavour to the peppers, and I’ve made it gloriously hot.
I’m going to get a couple chicken breasts and try both out – I’ll use the powder as a rub for one and use the sauce as a marinade for the other and grill them both up.
Oh man, these turned out amazing. The rub (left) was gloriously spicy – I broke a sweat. The marinade had a good muscle of heat as well, and was distinctly citrusy and acidic. Both were delicious and both versions are going to find a permanent home in my kitchen.