Peri-Peri, What's In A Name

Peri-Peri, What's In A Name

Peri-peri sounds interesting to the ear, isn't it? It lets off a zing, literally and figuratively. You wonder if it is Asian? African? Latino? European? I had the same questions in mind when I decided I wanted to unlock the secret behind the word. Anyway, a little research always does us good.

Peri-peri is named after the African bird eye's chili called piri-piri. It is endemic in South African shores, and was transported towards Portugal in the galleon trades of old. As years went by, it was incorporated into Portuguese cuisine. So Peri-peri chicken as we know it is Portuguese inspired. 

In London, my cousins took me to a branch of the world-reknowned international chain Nando's. Their menu is built around the peri-peri chicken and their wide array of sauces. I remembered my cousins warning me about the lunch crowd that swarms into Nando's. So we got there 11 am to avoid the long queue. 

The chicken was nothing spectacular if you ask me. But the sauces were interesting to try out, and bottles of various sauces were there for everyone to mix with their meals. That was the exciting part of the meal. 

I had  no memories to take from the meal except the photo where I posed in front of the canny softdrink wall!


And true to form, the peri-peri chicken craze hit the local market. Leading the pack is Peri-Peri Charcoal Chicken who has been in the business for around ten years now. I did not know this. Because it was only recently that I saw quite a crowd in front of their branch in SM Megamall. The sight piqued my interest enough to give it a try.

Looking at their menu, we chose to try their Sao Paolo Chicken Combo. This will score you a half chicken and two side dishes. For the side dishes, we chose hummus and tortilla. We also got to choose our dipping sauces. We opted for the chipotle sauce that was very very good. 

Peri-Peri Charcoal Chicken's Sao Paolo (P335); Photo by Michelle Africa

After the meal at the mall, I thought, this is something you could easily do at home. And so, for Fathers' day dinner, I thought of serving a Peri-Peri Chicken meal. Top of the list of things to do is to find a good recipe. I made sure that the ingredients were easily available. For sure, it would be difficult to find piri-piri in the groceries around town. No problem, we had our own bird's eye chili, called the siling labuyo. But for this meal, kids will also partake in the festivities. We had to tone the heat down. Way down...

I chose a mash-up of these two recipes that I found on the Internet, the first was from Allrecipes


  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons hot chili powder
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 bone-in chicken breast halves


  1. In a large bowl, stir together the paprika, chili powder, lemon juice, garlic, ginger and salt. Rub chicken with the mixture, place in a dish, and marinate for 3 hours.
  2. Preheat a grill for medium heat.
  3. Place chicken onto the grill and discard the marinade. Cook for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skin is slightly charred and juices run clear.

Difficulty? Easy.

What tweaks did we have to do? We were to serve a party of 20, so instead of just chicken breasts, we used three whole chickens, butterflied open, cut into quarters. And inspired by the version of Feasting At Home, we laid the marinated chicken on top of a bed of sliced potatoes (skin on). These potatoes will absorb the juices of the chicken and will serve as a great side dish. 

We served the chicken with Feasting At Home's cilantro yogurt sauce:


  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 bunch Cilantro - finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • Cracked pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Pour all these in a blender, and pulse several times until evenly mixed. 

We had wanted to serve a range of sauces a la Nando's. But sadly I did not find a recipe that would make us a sauce that tasted like Nando's. From Jamie Oliver's site, I saw this recipe posted in the forums.

For Garlic Peri-Peri sauce:

  • 16 tablespoons of olive oil (regular) or vegetable oil.
  • 5 tablespoons of garlic power
  • 3 lemons - squeeze the juice out.
  • 2 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar
  • 12-18 thai chilli - cut up (medium heat; 24 up for high heat)

For Garlic, Herb & Lemon:

  • Add the following:
  • 1 tablespoon of green parsley (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of green coriander (optional)

We tried it, pulsed all these in a blender. It turned out into an almost pasty mixture and tasted like plant puree. We tried to tweak it and added more olive oil and 2 tablespoons of ketchup. It tasted nothing like any of Nando's sauces. But when you mix it with the cilantro yogurt sauce, it made the meal more interesting. 

This was our finished product:

Our home version of the Peri-Peri Chicken; Photo by Michelle Africa

It will take several trials and errors before we get close to the Original Nando's Peri-Peri Chicken and its sauces. We don't intend to come up with the perfect copycat recipe. Just one that will make us nod and say, this is our own. And we love it. Imitation still remains the greatest form of flattery. The fact that Nando's got my mind churning with inspiration should make its founders happy.

Peri-Peri Charcoal Chicken
4f Bridgeway, SM Megamall Building B
Mandaluyong City
(02) 477 3488
Various Locations
You can find this article in my personal blog Chowpowwows, where chow is always on the lowdown. 

Published by Michelle Africa

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