We don’t eat as much chicken piripiri as everyone else in the world think we do. But Miguel Laffan and his Chicken all Around may soon change this. His own version with piripiri sauce is one the most addictive dishes I have had in years. Not to mention the small samosas, beautiful triangles of crispy, spicy pastry with chicken….
Miguel Laffan started to shake things up in Alentejo, in L’And and Vineyard, a beautiful hotel, near Montemor-o-Novo, who granted him a Michelin star. In Lisbon the inspiring menu at Viva Lisboa is also getting him a solid reputation in the capital– but that’s for another story, let’s stick to Chicken All Around, which has recently opened in the food court of Mercado da Ribeira.
I’m a serial fan of this beautifully seasoned chicken, hot and spicy, sweet and succulent, but not too much, just in the exact proportion of the hot kick released by the piripiri. The portions (half or one chicken) are chopped in easy-to-eat with-your-hand-pieces. The chicken is barbecued in charcoal as it should and sauce is irresistible – I’ve seen some people even mop the delicious sauce with their fingers…
Know the famous Bonjardim in Lisbon or Frango da Guia in the Algarve? Now imagine that 10 times better and with proper chips, not that sad and greasy rectangles of potato that land on your plate in most places, including Bonjardim in Restauradores.
His chips, called “À Inglesa” (The English way) are just amazing and should be mandatory… Double fried, crispy on the outside, soft and velvety inside. Served with sea salt and some herbs on top.
The sweet potato purée with lime is also quite good but let’s be honest: grilled chicken has to be eaten with something deep fried.
In Chicken All Around, Laffan has many other chicken dishes in the menu but I don’t care really. Chicken piripiri and the chicken samosas are out of this world. And have I mentioned his doughnuts? Maybe will save that later for another story…
An American gave me an idea how grand Laffan is, while devouring a succulent piece of chicken and a handful of crispy chips “not even in Texas we find such a great barbecue chicken and fries”.
A British young man added also a note of interest, drowning his sorrow with a glass of red from Alentejo: “Man, this has nothing to do with Nando’s, what have I been eating all my life?”.
Some years ago, one of the most interesting things I found while researching for an article about piripiri chicken (my profile pic on Twitter is a reminder of that story…) was that the chillies actually have their origin in Brazil not Mozambique. The Portuguese introduced the chillies in Mozambique where they developed and became so popular.
Interestingly, Miguel Laffan’s own chicken piripiri sauce reminds me of the chicken I had in Brazil. It’s good when flavours travel so well. It’s worth saying that one of the best piripiri sauces I have ever had is from an South African chef, Grant Hawthorne. The other one is made by my cousin, according to an old Angolan recipe.