It was a rainy day in the Algarve, so we drove to the town of Porches to do a little shopping. While perusing the wide selection of gorgeous ceramics for sale, my stomach began to rumble and I realized it was 3:00 pm and we had not had lunch. After ascertaining that we had time to go for a meal and still return in time to complete our purchases, we asked a young woman working in the store if she could recommend a good restaurant. I had seen signs for piri piri chicken and wanted to try it. I couldn't believe it was actually possible to grow a little weary of the amazing fresh fish we had been enjoying on our trip, but I was ready for a change. Fortunately, we were close to the Piri Piri epicenter of the Algarve. Piri Piri chicken originated in the village of Guia, a mere 10 minutes away. The sales assistant had told us that her favorite restaurant was called Ramires. She told us that we would know when we got to Guia because there was a statue of a chicken in the middle of the roundabout. We soon found Guia, but finding the restaurant was a little more difficult. Piri Piri chicken restaurants abounded in Guia, but we wanted to find Ramires. After driving up and down the narrow streets of the village, we finally spotted it halfway up another street. We found a place to park and entered the simple but attractive restaurant.
Language was no barrier since everyone understands “Piri Piri”. Besides, I'm not sure there was anything else on the menu. Because of the time of day, we had no problem getting a table. Our waiter took our order and things started to happen. First, we received the crisp cool bottle of white wine we had ordered, plus several appetizers, including bread, tasty sardine paste, cheese and other small treats. I especially loved the marinated carrot slices and olives. I have no idea if we paid anything extra for these goodies. They just appeared, and since we were ravenous, we fell to with gusto. Then the chicken arrived. It was grilled and cut up into small pieces, totally unlike the way we cut chicken in the states. Most of the pieces were about an inch and a half wide and maybe three inches long. We were also served a basket of fresh, crispy fries and a salad of sliced tomatoes and onions. The salad was dressed with an herby vinaigrette of delicious olive oil and vinegar with lots of oregano.
Let me make it clear that I am not a fan of raw tomato and onion salad, but this was terrific. The freshness and ripeness of the tomatoes was delectable and the dressing was mellow and golden with top quality olive oil. I couldn't stop eating it.
The chicken was perfectly grilled. The meat was tender and the grilled skin was spicy and crisp. Extra Piri Piri sauce on the table was used it to spice up the chicken even more. It wasn't long before we devoured every morsel.
So what is Piri Piri sauce? We learned that it is a mixture of finely chopped birds eye peppers originally from Africa, olive oil, lots of finely chopped garlic, paprika, and not much else. Traditionally, the sauce is brushed on the chicken toward the end of the grilling process with bunches of fresh parsley or cilantro. The birds eye peppers were brought to Portugal by roving sailors, who discovered them in Madagascar.