In many ways, this dish represents an age of exploration and discovery that was first launched from these shores so many centuries ago. The complicated ancestry of the chilli peppers that give piri-piri sauce its fiery flavour trace a journey from Europe to the South Americas to Africa - and back again.

While the chilli peppers are perfectly suited to grow in the balmy Algarvian sunshine, they could not be found anywhere else in the world until Columbus first arrived in the Caribbean in 1492. Bringing their exotic flavour back from Mexico and Colombia, they exploded in popularity as a result of how easily the could be grown and cooked with.

The Portuguese who emigrated to Africa introduced them to Mozambique and Cabo Verde, where they became a mainstay of their local cuisines. It is from here that they would return to find new popularity in Portugal as a wave of immigration from Mozambique in the 1970s helped to diversify a local gastronomy inspired once more by the chilli pepper.

So, with roots stretching back to the 15th century, the Algarve’s most popular dish remains the famous chicken piri-piri of Guia. Grilled chicken is served with a sauce grinding together the hot pepper with a blend of more traditional European ingredients - garlic, vinegar, olive oil, salt, bay leaves and lemon juice - creating a dish that celebrates the simplicity of great cooking.

Paired with vinho verde, a Portuguese green wine made from young grapes, chicken piri-piri has proven incredibly popular with locals and tourists alike and no trip to the Algarve is complete without a visit to the piri-piri capital of Guia.

It may well be a simple dish, but it represents a hugely important chapter in Portuguese history as a part of the Columbian exchange, where goods were exchanged for technology between two continents. In fact, sat enjoyed with friends and family, you could easily be convinced it was Columbus’ greatest discovery.

 

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