Fourth in an occasional blog series called This Is the East, featuring hidden spots on Johannesburg’s East Rand.
The original inspiration for my “This Is the East” series was a giant tub of peri peri chicken livers ordered from O’ Peri Peri, a Portuguese restaurant in Edenvale. Back then I vowed to eat a sit-down meal at O’ Peri Peri and write a proper post about it. Now I’ve finally done that.
A Brief Discussion of Peri Peri
Before I proceed, I need to explain peri peri and the significance of Portuguese food in South Africa.
Peri peri — which means “pepper pepper” in Swahili — is an informal term for the African Birds Eye chili. The Portuguese were introduced to this blazing hot chili pepper centuries ago, when they began colonizing East Africa. Peri Peri became a staple flavor in Portuguese cuisine and the African cuisine entwined with it.
Peri peri, which is usually served as a sauce on chicken or prawns, is very prevalent in Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony. (The hottest meal I have ever eaten was a piece of peri peri chicken at a beach resort near Vilankulo, Mozambique. I will never forget the searing pain that enveloped my mouth that night.)
Peri peri is also huge in South Africa, which has large populations of Portuguese and Mozambicans who migrated here during the wars in Mozambique and Angola. Portuguese restaurants are everywhere in this country, especially in Joburg.
Peri peri eventually rose to worldwide prominence thanks to Nando’s, a wildly popular South African food chain serving Portuguese-Mozambican food.
Dinner at O’ Peri Peri
O’ Peri Peri is a classic East Rand neighborhood joint. It’s in a strip mall with indoor-outdoor seating spilling out onto the parking lot. The restaurant is cheerful and nicely decorated, like your grandmother’s kitchen. The menu is authentically Portuguese (at least according to me, someone who has never been to Portugal). The portions are generous and the prices are cheap.
There were so many authentic-sounding Portuguese dishes on the menu, most of which I’d never heard of. I chose at random and ordered Febras no Prato, which is marinated and grilled pork medallions with a fried egg on top.
I added some of the Porra sauce — you shake up the bottle to mix the red and green sauces and then pour it out. The pork was perfect and the Porra sauce was just the right level of hotness for my tastebuds.
O’ Peri Peri is not fancy, it’s just good. I challenge anyone to go there and not have fun. This Is the East.
O’ Peri Peri is at the corner of Harris and Wagenaar Streets in Edenvale. Call 011-023-8949. Note O’ Peri Peri is closed on Sundays.