the appetizer:

The New Portuguese Table by David Leite, includes recipes like Piri-Piri Sauce, Molho de Piri-Piri; Grilled Chicken Slathered in Hot Sauce, Frango com Piri-Piri; Azorean Kale, Sausage, and Bean Soup, Sopa de Couve; and Olive Oil-Poached Fresh Cod with Roasted Tomato Sauce, Confitado de Bacalhau Fresco com Tomatada Assada.

Cookbook Profile

Piri-Piri Sauce
Molho de Piri-Piri

Makes about 1-1/2 cups



Piri-Piri (pee-rdee pee-rdee)

Piri-piri are fiery-hot little bird peppers from Mozambique, a former colony, that made their way to Portugal aboard the ships returning from the African coast and points farther east. Immigrants from Mozambique and Angola, another former colony, with their insatiable appetites for the pepper, sparked an interest in all things piri-piri on the mainland. Dishes from the classic repertoire include Grilled Chicken Slathered in Hot Sauce and Grilled Shrimp with Piri-Piri Sauce (page 97).

Because fresh piri-piri peppers are imposible to find in North America, choosing the right chile to substitute can be a challenge.

Chileheads will automatically reach for the hottest of the hot, but hold off: piri-piri pepper vary enormously. The ones used in Portuguese cooking clock in at about the 40,000- to 60,000-unit mark on the Scoville scale, developed to measure the heat in chiles. While piri-piri peppers are most definitely hot, they won't blow off the top of your head. Substitute fresh or dried red cayenne, tabasco, pequín, or santaka peppers. In your supermarket, look for those that rank a heat rating of 7 or 8 (on a scale of 1 to 10).


Piri-Piri Sauce

Portuguese piri-piri sauce, which packs a gut punch of heat, is sprinkled into, smothered over, and smeared onto all types of dishes. Arguably, the most famous is Frango com Piri-Piri. So proud are the Portuguese of their potent sauce, it's been advertised as "Portuguese Viagra."

At farmers' markets, old men in their bone hats sit behind tables covered with jars of neon-red homemade piri-piri sauce for sale. Some are nothing more than oil infused with the chile peppers, others contain a mixture of crushed fresh peppers and oil, and still others are a combination of oil, vinegar, peppers, and spices. This last version, the one given below, is what comes closest to storebought piri-piri, and I think the added ingredients give a nice acidic smack to the sauce. The recipe can easily be halved.

Now, while I admire your commitment to making this sauce from scratch if you can't find peppers with the right punch, there's no shame in using a store-bought hot sauce, such as Frank's RedHot or Tabasco brand pepper sauce.

Atenção (Note)
Piri-piri peppers are unavailable in North America, but the substitutions suggested below will give a similar wallop of heat. Whenever handling any types of chiles, wear latex gloves, and be assiduously careful not to rub your face, mouth, or eyes. If you do, it'll be a painful experience you're not soon likely to forget.

1. Mix the garlic and vinegar in a small bowl and let steep for 20 minutes.

2. Drop the peppers (including their seeds) and the garlic mixture into a food processor and pulse to chop. While the motor is running, pour in the oil, sprinkle with the salt, and whir until smooth. Pour the sauce into a small glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and let steep in the fridge for at least several days, preferably 1 week.

3. Strain the mixture, if you wish, but I never do. The sauce will keep for about 1 month in the fridge. Shake well before using.


Buy The New Portuguese Table


The New Portuguese Table


More about Portugal and Portuguese Recipes

This page created May 2010