Nando’s wrote to us out of the blue a couple of weeks ago letting us know that Rochelle Schätzl, the world’s foremost authority on Peri-Peri Chili, will be in Vancouver asking if we would be interested in meeting her. Rochelle is an award-winning author and chef from South Africa, the home of the Peri-Peri Chili. She had written a book about it called “Peri-Peri: The Contrasts and Contradictions of the African Bird’s Eye Chili”.
We said yes, because we knew it will be an opportunity to learn more about the Peri-Peri Chili and its exotic flavours … and boy, was that some learnings we had! Never in my imagination could someone share non-stop about everything Peri-Peri for two straight hours. LOL! We had a great time and this is what we learned.
After a few email exchanges, Mark suggested that we meet at the new Nando’s Restaurant in South Burnaby, in the new big boxes shopping mall by Marine Way. We were greeted by Nick, the owner of this outlet, and Mark and Rochelle. Believe it or not, Suanne and I had never been to Nando’s before because we thought that it was just a spicier version of fried chicken.
We found out how different Nando’s is from KFC and Church’s and that it is not quite the fast food the way we know it. Well, it is like a cross between fast food and slow food is how I would describe it. You place your orders at the fastfood style counter and given a wooden block with a number where there will bring the food to your table when it is ready.
This particular store was busy during lunchtime when we were there during a weekday.
Nando’s originated from South Africa in 1987 and is a restaurant with a Portuguese theme. Nando’s operates in 35 countries today with their biggest market in South African and Britain. There were a lot of other fascinating stories about Nando’s history and beginings but am not going to bore you with those.
Anyway, this restaurant we visited carries the South African theme with African decor and artifacts. The restaurant was pleasant, clean and tastefully designed.
Rochelle gave a copy of her beautiful book on Peri-Peri. It took her two years of research to write it. It was a privilege to be given the inside scoop of this brilliant pepper and how it is impacting the global culinary landscape. Specialty Food Magazine recently listed the Peri-Peri Chili as one of the Top 10 Flavour Trends of 2009.
From our time with her, we can clearly see that Rochelle is proud of South Africa, it’s food, people and culture. She told us how the tiny Peri-Peri Chili represents very much a way of life of the South African adding that all restaurants in South Africa will have some form of Peri-Peri.
Peri-Peri is the African version of the Bird’s Eye Chili. It is very much like the South East Asian version of Chili Padi or Thai Pepper. This chili packs a punch despite its size. Peri-Peri is used in a dry form and not fresh. Do you know why?
Let’s see a comparison of Scoville Scale (a measurement of hotness) of Peri-Peri Chili against other common peppers:
- Law enforcement grade pepper spray: 5,000,000 Scoville Rating
- Naga Jolikia (Hottest chili in the world): 1,000,000
- Habanero: 100,000 to 300,000
- Peri-Peri: 50,000 to 175,000
- Thai Pepper: 50,000 to 100,000
- Cayenne Pepper: 30,000 to 50,000
- Tabasco Pepper: 30,000 to 50,000
- Chipotle Pepper: 10,000 to 40,000
- Jalapeno Pepper: 3,000 to 8,000
- Bell Pepper: Zero!
There had been attempts to cultivate Peri-Peri Chilies outside of a small region in southern African but all attempts had failed. Rochelle said that the Peri Peri is a chili with a bad attitude … the harsher conditions and weather, the meaner the chili gets. There had not been much success in cultivating the Peri-Peri commercially.
Suanne and I sampled a lot of food at Nando’s but there is one I love a lot … the Chicken Livers ($7). Oh major yum. I guess it is not for everyone but if can get over the texture and the thought of it, chicken liver is really delicious.
We ignored the bread that came with the Chicken Livers. We can’t help but notice the tempting looking Portuguese Garlic Bread ($2) …
… combining the Chicken Livers and the Portuguese Garlic Bread is great! It does not look great huh? But it tastes great … that is what matters.
Nando’s have a section of the menu that makes it easier to order for sharing. It makes it easy for ordering for a group. The above is called the Variety Pack ($25) for two people. The platter includes 1/2 chicken, 2 kebabs, 8 wings and 2 regular sides.
The Chicken Wings was particularly good. All the sides have Peri-Peri …
… the Spiced Rice has peri-peri, the fries (no pictures sorry) is called Peri Fries …
… even the corns are flavored with Peri-Peri. I like this corn where they have a big dollop of butter on the side. Nando’s do not have corns all year round because they only want this on the menu when it is in season.
All items on the menu are available in Nando’s all over the world … except for Caesar Salad. And it does not have Peri-Peri.
You get to choose the heat with your chicken. We wanted to try a Extra Hot item to see how much pain we can endure. 🙂 The Chicken Quarters is one of their most popular item. They make this seriously healthy by using only grade A free range chicken and trim off the fat before cooking. When grilled, most of the fats are dripped off. They also marinate this for 24 hours in lemon and herb with low salt. In Nando’s words, there are 70% less fat than KFC and 1000 times more flavour.
The Extra Hot is hot but Suanne and I can take it easily. But I agree, it might be way too hot for most people.
There was a lot of food we sampled. Even though we declined dessert, Nick insisted that we their Mango Icre Cream, called a Nando’s Kisses. We were glad we had desserts. This is unique in that it had hard sugar coating. Delicious.
Nick then brought us to a little tour of their kitchen and showed us how they flame grilled the chicken.
Suanne and I had a great time learning about Peri-Peri and Nando’s. It was an honor to have met the world’s foremost authority of the Peri-Peri Chili and learn first hand from her.