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AAfro-Lusitanian cooking is a fusion food genre resulting from the presence of many generations of Portuguese settlers in southern Africa. South Africa was never a Portuguese colony but, in recent decades, Afro-Lusitanian food has made its fiery presence known on our plates and palates.
Afro-Lusitanian cooking originated in Angola and Mozambique after explorer Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1497 and sailed north to the Indian Ocean where his fleet made port in Mozambique.
So began over 500 years of social, economic and culinary interaction between the people of Portugal and those of southern Africa. This shared history has resulted in the development of what South Africans tend to call ‘Portuguese’ food, but it is, in fact, a Creole Afro-Lusitanian cuisine born in Africa.
Afro-Lusitanian food is similar but separate from classic European style Portuguese food. Key dishes within this food genre include Caril de Galinha (a coconut milk chicken curry) and the super-spicy olive oil, garlic and chili hot sauce known as piri-piri.
In South Africa piri-piri is sometimes spelled and pronounced peri-peri because English speakers tend to struggle with the hard ‘i’ sound used in the Portuguese language. They do not, however, struggle with the delicious flavours of the sauce!
The term used on the streets of Maputo, Mozambique, to describe piri-piri chicken may not be very politically correct but it reveals the African origins of the dish to perfection. Translated politely, frango à cafreal means indigenous chicken. Literally translated, cafreal is a pejorative term for black Africans. Either way, the foodstuffs' African origins are crudely, but deliciously obvious.
Afro-Lusitanian cooking is very common in restaurants throughout South Africa, and popular franchise restaurants like Nandos, Adega and O’Galitos have ensured the wide appeal of Afro-Lusitanian cuisine.
Afro-Lusitanian food is most prevalent and authentic in Johannesburg’s southern suburbs where the majority of Portuguese-speaking residents live. Try the Flamingo Restaurant at the Troyeville Hotel where piri-piri prawns are served with fat hand-cut chips (fries), while north of the city, home-cooked dishes from Portuguese-speaking Madeira are the highlight at 1920 Restaurant.
In Cape Town, head for the Dias Tavern for excellent piri-piri chicken and other Portuguese delights. When in Port Elizabeth you must try the flame grilled, super-fiery perfection of the chicken at Fernando’s Chicken House.
Travel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)11 402 7709
Tel: +27 (0)11 326 3161
Tel: +27 (0)21 465 7547
Fernando’s Chicken House
Tel: +27 (0)41 585 3794
What will it cost?
The cost of your Afro-Lusitanian meal will depend on where you eat. Johannesburg’s southern suburb restaurants are authentic and cheaper than those in the northern suburbs. You can enjoy a take away family meal for under R200 or spend upwards of R400 for a seafood platter at upmarket Portuguese restaurants like Pigalle.
What to eat
Classic dishes include piri-piri chicken, prawns or livers. Caril de galinha chicken curry is a mild alternative for those who don't do hot.
Johannesburg's annual Lusito Land Festival, held in the last week in April until the first weekend of May, offers a carnival of Afro-Lusitanian flavour.
Piri-piri sauce which is usually sold in mild, hot and very hot versions. Be aware that the piri-piri sold in South Africa may be considerably hotter than what you are used to.