Hi, Portugalist. I’m coming to Portugal (the Algarve) and I have a question about the food. I know Nandos isn’t Portuguese, but I want to try the authentic version of Nando’s dishes. What should I look out for, and where should I go to try them? Karen
You’re right, Nando’s isn’t Portuguese. It’s actually a South African chain based that serves food from Mozambique. Well, the chicken is Mozambiquan. The rest of the menu probably stems from its South Africa influence.
We covered the whole Nando’s-Portugal connection in another post, and that explains the restaurant’s origins a little. It’s all a little confusing because Nando’s use the Cock of Barcelos in their branding, and make references to Portugal. Suffice to say it’s not Portuguese, though.
All of this means that you’re unlikely to find many of the items on the Nando’s menu in Portugal. You will find piri-piri chicken, which is different to Nando’s Peri-Peri chicken, but it’s probably the thing that bears the most resemblance to something that you’d find at Nando’s. Good news too: the chicken in Portugal is much better!
Although you can find frango assado (piri-piri chicken) in restaurants all over Portugal, the best tends to come from the Algarve. The recipe is said to hail from the little town of Guia near Albufeira, but I’ve found many restaurants outside of Guia that serve better Piri-Piri chicken. Churrasqueira Valdemar in Silves and Churrasqueira Guerreiro in Portimão are two places worth visiting.
Going to a churrasqueira is an experience in itself as well. Here, you’ll be asked whether you want chicken and whether you want it with piri-piri or not. You’ll then be asked whether you want chips and salad, and what you want to drink. That’s the menu. You don’t pick the piece of chicken you want (e.g. breast or leg) or the sauce you want (mild, medium, etc). You’re definitely not going to find anything like a ‘wing roulette’ on the menu.
As for houmous, peri-peri nuts, macho peas, sweet potato mash, cheesy mash, spicy rice, burritos, and wraps – these are all unlikely to exist on a traditional Portuguese menu, although you might some of them in more touristy locations or in cities like Lisbon and Porto.
Salads and burgers you will find on a Portuguese menu, although they’re usually not as lavish. On traditional menus, it’s not uncommon to get a burger served either without the bread but with chips (no prato) or with the bread but without the chips (no pão). Burgers with both chips and bread, and with fun names like ‘the bad boy burger’ are only likely to be found in modern burger bars.
The prego roll, a new addition to the Nando’s UK menu but something that’s been on the South African and Malaysian menus for a long time, is actually a Portuguese dish. This is something that you’ll find in most cafes across Portugal, along with its porky cousin: the bifana.
In Portugal, a prego is simply a steak sandwich that’s usually served with squeezy yellow mustard. The Nando’s version looks to be fairly true to the original, although some photos that I’ve seen show it containing lettuce and tomato which isn’t quite typical.
I’d recommend trying it in Portugal as, firstly, it’s authentically Portuguese and, secondly, it typically only costs around €2 here (compared to around £8 in the UK).
But, as well as looking for foods that are similar to what you already know, I’d recommend trying some Portuguese dishes that you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. Portugal’s culinary reputation may be on the rise, but it’s still very hard to get Portuguese food outside of Portugal. Take the time to try some of the many unique dishes that Portugal has and, if you like them, you can always pick up a Portuguese cookbook and learn to cook them at home.
Hope that helps!