Whilst most people are very excited about the prospect of having a Portuguese food truck roaming the streets of the Gold Coast, not many can actually say they know what Portuguese food is. Modern Portuguese food is best described as Afro European with a lick of Asian. It has been influenced by its ex-colonies Mozambique and Angola in Africa, Brazil in South America, Goa in Southern India and even Macau in China. And even if you are not familiar with these countries cuisines, Aussies know and love the flavours and ingredients used around the world that Portuguese food draws on. Lots of lemon, garlic, paprika, piri piri chilli, oregano with grilled meats, salads and the obligatory crusty breads, fried potatoes and rice! Yum. Best described it is honest, flavourful and hearty. Your taste buds will awaken and your belly can rest assured, it is satisfied.
Probably the most well known dish is Piri Piri Chicken made popular by a couple of well known fast food chains. The Portuguese discovered the Piri Piri chilli whilst trading with remote south eastern Africans trade posts over 500 years ago. But they were not first, the Indians and Arabs were already well established and no doubt enjoying the flame grilled piri piri chicken on remote unspoilt beaches well before the Portuguese showed up. But before you reach for the glass of water with bulging eyes, spluttering, “I don't like spicy food!!!!” let me assure you, there is a big difference between spicy and hot. Our food does contain a variety of exotic spices but it is only those dishes that state “Piri Piri” that you will find ‘spicy’ and for those of you who love the burn there is plenty of hot sauce to go around. Piri Piri is our sauce of Inspiration.
And it is here in Mozambique that I am writing our first barraca blog. When my beautiful Portuguese wife suggested I take some time out and go back to Africa and be inspired whilst our food truck was being built…. I was a good husband and agreed wholeheartedly. For those of you who have been to Mozambique and have seen its amazing coastlines and enjoyed the fact that it is well off the tourist track, I am sorry for letting this out of the bag. For those of you who have never considered a trip or maybe don't even know where it is, look it up. I have no doubts that in 5 - 10 years you will see the travel shows with some perky young Aussie B grade celebrity singing the virtues of an ‘untouched paradise’ with ‘ mouth watering local dishes’ and ‘ local people with smiles that light up the night sky’.
We have been to Mozambique many times and each time we leave wishing for our own little barraca on the beach. My wife, Sandra has family in the capital, Maputo and having some local contacts on the ground certainly makes things easier. There are very few rules which for an Aussie is refreshing but disconcerting all at once. There is a certain way that things are done over there and sometimes you just gotta let it happen African style.
Peace has long ago been declared in Moz, however, after 24 years of civil war, with most of those seeing Mozambique rated as the #1 most dangerous country in the world, it has its challenges now in rebuilding itself back to its former glory. And they are doing a great job. The Chinese are buying in in a big way and assisting with roads and services - not to mention probably the biggest building in all of Maputo, the casino!
But enough of the history lesson, I am here for the food. And despite eating out on the streets breakfast, lunch and dinner for 7 days, I have not grown bored with their dishes.
The coffee is outstanding. The morning Pastel de nata (egg tarts) and crusty bread toasted ham and cheese are perfect. Lunches are Bifanas (pork buns) and Pregos (garlic beef rolls), full flavoured and hearty. They also do incredible Bacalau which is the dried and salted cod fish.
And the best in my opinion is the Piri Piri Chicken, grilled to perfection, slowly. As the chicken cooks and drys out the meat reabsorbs the moisture from the sauce which is mopped every couple of minutes. Incredible and nothing like you may have eaten before!!
I have had an amazing trip and have been welcomed into a number of kitchens whilst here in Maputo and shown some secret recipes, techniques and sauces that I have sworn never to divulge. Thanks again Moz we will be back soon.
Portuguese food is not complicated but you gotta get it right. Like the artist Vincent Van Gough once said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. Could he have been talking garlic, lemon, chilli and salt?