Tag Archives: Mozambique

In Bibi’s Kitchen by Hawa Hassan takes readers on a trip of East Africa

We wrote previously about highly enjoying Hawa Hassan’s Somali recipes on Bon Appetit, so we were delighted when we learned that Hassan was releasing her first cookbook, with Julia Turshen, in late 2020, In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean. We bought In Bibi’s Kitchen for ourselves for Christmas, and are happy to report that it is delightful, both as a cookbook, and as an intimate insight into the lives of the featured cooks. The recipes in the book cover the eight African nations that border the Indian ocean: South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Comoros, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, and Eritrea. Hassan is a Somali-American chef and entrepreneur, and wanted to shed some light on the culinary traditions of East Africa, and we are so happy that this under-explored culinary region is so nicely featured in her new cookbook.

The rich trans-Indian Ocean culinary and cultural exchange is apparent in these recipes, which mix Indian, Middle-Eastern and Sub-Saharan African flavors (and tons of warm spices). We especially loved that Hassan included recipes for the spice blends in the book including the cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom redolent Xawaash (similar to Yemeni Hawaij spice blend). Another aspect of the book we particularly enjoyed was that each chapter starts with an interview with a grandma – or “Bibi” (living in Africa, or abroad) – about her life, cooking, and recipes. As an additional bonus, the on-site photographs by Khadija Farah, and food photography by Jennifer May are simply gorgeous. We have only tried a few recipes from In Bibi’s Kitchen, so far, but they have all been excellent and utilize mainly ingredients which can be obtained in a well-stocked grocery store. Vogue UK has a sampling of 3 recipes: Ma Gehennet’s Shiro (chickpea stew) from Eritrea, Zanzibar Pilau (rice) from Tanzania, and Ma Kauthar’s Mango Chile Sauce from Kenya. This weekend we aim to try a new recipe from the book: a Somali-inflected pasta dish called Suugo Suqaar (recipe here), which she previously demo-ed on Bon Appetit. Don’t delay, you can buy In Bibi’s Kitchen, from Bookshop.org here.

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Fogo’s Peri Peri: Portuguese Chicken in Chicagoland

portugalMozambiqueSouth Africa FlagWhen we heard that there was a Peri Peri chicken place in Skokie we were pleasantly surprised. Peri Peri is a Portuguese/African dish of spicy peri-peri pepper marinated chicken, popularized in the US and throughout the world by the South African Nando’s chain. We had tried Peri Peri chicken before, but only at Nando’s, which coincidentally now has 2 locations open in Chicago (when Fogo opened there were no Nando’s in the area).

PeriPeri Fogo’s seemed to be set up in a similar mold to Nando’s. Like Nando’s you can order the type of chicken pieces you want (breast, thigh, etc.), and then select the sauce, ranging from a mild lemon to super spicy. Fogo’s boasts that all of their chicken is marinated for 24 hours. We thought the chicken was slightly more reasonably priced than Nando’s, and you can get a quarter chicken for less than $5. Other options include chicken wings and chicken strips, and a surprisingly large vegetarian section with many wraps and sandwiches filled with paneer (an Indian curd cheese). There were also some unusual sides, like yucca fries and corn on the cob. Customarily L ordered a quarter chicken with medium heat, and M ordered spicy (is there any other way?)PeriPeriYuca

There had been some previous complaints about slow service, but we thought it took only a little longer than a typical counter service place for the chicken to be grilled-to-order. This chicken was flavorful and well-spiced, and we appreciated the nice char from the grill. M was also happy that the spicy was actually pretty spicy! The sides were not as successful, so we suggest getting your fill of the finger-licking good chicken. We are happy to have another option for Portuguese chicken in the Chicagoland area. Nando’s fans will be happy to know that Fogo’s is comparable to Nando’s (one can’t help but compare), but with more reasonable prices and more vegetarian options.

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Mozambique in Lisbon: Cantinho do Aziz

Restaurante Cantinho do Aziz
Rua das Fontaínhas de São Lourenço 5
Lisbon, Portugal

Mozambique

If you’re looking for fantastic Portuguese food, Lisbon is the place. But Lisbon is also an excellent one-stop option if you are looking from food from other Portuguese-speaking countries. In previous visits to Lisbon we have sampled Cape Verdean, Angolan, and Goan (Indian) cuisine, but Cantinho do Aziz was our first experience with Mozambican food. We had heard nothing but good things about Cantinho do Aziz, so were excited to check it out. Be forewarned: the place is a little hard to find, located on a narrow street in the old, labyrinthine Mouraria district of Lisbon, up flights of stairs from the Martim Moniz Largo, a hotbed of Indian and African shops and culture. You have found your destination

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In the middle of winter, Cantinho do Aziz, seems to be a small restaurant. Tucked away in the building shown above, Aziz, the amiable and gregarious owner, would later assure us that during the warmer months hundreds of people dine here each evening, in the huge outdoor seating area that was currently closed, listening to Mozambican and Cape Verdean music while they enjoyed their meals. Indeed, if we ever come back we will surely eat outside; but even so, the Aziz’s menu had a ton of delicious-sounding options, many of which were totally new to us. Aziz was more than happy to guide us through the menu and tell us about the restaurant, which had been on the same site for decades. Aziz recommened the charmussas (€1) to start, a word related to the Indian samosa – a cognate that should already clue in diners to the fascinating history of cultural exchange in the Indian Ocean that infuses Mozambican cuisine. Indeed, we ordered two charmussas, one vegetarian and one beef, and in biting into his, M stated that it “tastes like the Indian Ocean.” Being a fire-breather, he was also a huge fan of the potent and flavorful habanero pepper sauce that accompanied the charmussas.

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For entrees, we went with the Zambezi chicken (named for the river that flows to the Indian Ocean through central Mozambique) and the makoufe. The Zambezi chicken (€5) was similar to the roast chicken we had at the Angolan restaurant Moamba and featured a charred, flavorful skin. The makoufe (€9), voted the best dish in Lisbon by Time Out magazine in 2013, was the more complex option and definitely lived up to its billing. Reminding us of a Brazilian moqueca, makoufe stews generous portions of crab, shrimp and greens together with palm oil and coconut milk. Both dishes were delicious and heavily spiced (but not spicy). We were also impressed by the number of vegetarian dishes and appetizers on offer. The Cantinho drew a diverse crowd, and Aziz noted that it was even a popular lunch spot for workers from the American embassy. We can easily see why – we ate like kings for less than €20!

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Though we were pretty full, we could not resist getting some dessert – cashew fruit mousse. We first encountered the cashew fruit (yep, where the nut comes from) in Brazil, and were perplexed by its sweet cross of citrus, papaya and nut flavors. It stood up pretty well in mousse, too!

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Mozambican cuisine was definitely a unique combination of global influences we had never tasted before, and Cantinho do Aziz was the perfect place to try it. We were blown away by the tastiness, quality and low prices at Cantinho do Aziz. It is the perfect, friendly local option for fans of any cuisine. We hope to go back someday in nice weather to eat outside!
Cantinho do Aziz

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The International Origins of Nando’s Peri-Peri

Over at Africa is a Country, our favorite African news and opinion site, historian Sarah Emily Duff has a fascinating write-up on the multinational origins of Nando’s Peri-Peri, a self-described South African peri-peri chicken joint with locations throughout Africa (including Gaborone, capital of Botswana, from where she writes this piece), Europe, and a few in the USA. M visited a location in Washington, DC last year, and raved about the food. Now, we have a much greater understanding of the surprisingly complex history of the chain, with ties to Portugal, Mozambique, South Africa, and the UK during the second half of the 20th century. We’ll take all this cultural learning with us when we return to the DC Nando’s again in October!

Nando's peri-peri chicken with extra spicy sauce, rice, and cole slaw in Washington, DC.

M’s favorite: Nando’s peri-peri chicken with extra spicy sauce, rice, and cole slaw in Washington, DC.

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Portugal / South Africa / Mozambique: Nando’s Peri-Peri

Nando’s Peri-Peri
819 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20001

Nando’s is a South African restaurant chain with locations throughout DC and Maryland, serving up a signature Portuguese/Mozambican speciality: peri-peri (pronounced “piri-piri”) chicken. Peri-peri is the local name for an African Bird’s Eye Chili, grown throughout sub-Saharan Africa. How the pepper came to Portugal is a mystery, but eventually Portuguese and Mozambican (Mozambique being a former Portuguese colony) culinary exchanges gave rise to a peri-peri sauce made from the pepper. The sauce is a staple on southern African and Portuguese tables, and is applied liberally to chicken breast grilled over a spit: peri-peri chicken. Nando’s was founded by members of South Africa’s Portuguese-Mozambican community, and has since expanded to 30 restaurants on 5 continents. Unfortunately, they have only recently made inroads in the USA, and only in the DC metro area. That is unfortunate, Nando’s definitely hits the spot for your stateside peri-peri craving and is well worth a visit.

On a recent trip to DC, M visited Nando’s Chinatown location (hence the Chinese characters on the sign) – probably their most popular location in the city. Nando’s logo is a representation of the Rooster of Barcelos, the Portuguese national symbol, and appropriate here because the rooster’s large eye makes one think of the Bird’s Eye Chili.

Nando’s does an excellent job of serving up presumably fast food in an upscale setting. Wood paneling and good lighting make for a sophisticated interior, and a central plexiglas wall – actually filled with dried peppers – is a nice touch. The walls are decorated with original works from South African artists, part of Nando’s ever-expanding art collection (now 4,000 pieces) which also offers scholarships to young artists back in Africa. The uniqueness of the food and their commitment to the arts really made me want to like this place, so it is lucky the food delivered.

For the relatively upscale vibe, the ordering is simple. You can choose from many entrees, but if we are being honest (and we always are) there is no point in getting anything besides the chicken: pick a half or whole breast, choose your spiciness level, and choose between 0 and 3 side dishes. I selected the extra spicy chicken (of course), with sides of Portuguese rice and a mayo-heavy coleslaw, to reduce the heat from the chicken if need be. After ordering they give you a cute table marker and you proceed to your spot, waiting for the food to be delivered to you.

The chicken was – and I cannot overstate this – perfect. Grilled to perfection with just the right amount of marinade, Nando’s then lathered on the peri-peri to add the extra heat I requested. But the flavors come through as well: peri-peri is a complex sauce, loaded with spices and contrasting flavors, and Nando’s variety brought out all the high notes from the pepper as well as the other ingredients. I thought these paired nicely with the rice, which was satisfying though underwhelming. I probably would not get the coleslaw again: it was very good as far as coleslaw goes, but the menu was correct in suggesting it would cut off the heat, which it did almost too well. Next time, I’d order something not as heavy as a side, reserving the slaw for less spice-inclined diners. Overall, for under $15, this was a steal for a weekday lunch. I hope Nando’s is able to expand and open up more locations in the USA, because they would do well given their business model. But if they stray from their signature sauce and effective grilling as a result of the expansion there will be major issues. I’m just thrilled to see good, fast, transnational cuisine like this making inroads in the USA – for now, if you are in the DC area, definitely stop by for a great lunch!

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