Travel Guide to Portugal

Portugal’s Frango No Churrasco: The Tastiest “Fast Food” Chicken you will Eat this Summer

By Sonia Nolasco

“It’s Friday night, I’m tired and I don’t feel like cooking! What to eat?”

“There’s a futebol game on and everyone’s getting together here to watch it. Sigh, what to feed them?”

Though some of these quandaries may sound distinctly Portuguese, I’m sure most of you can relate to these common food dilemmas that frequently occur in Portugal. And while pizza and Chinese food may be the first cuisines to come to your mind, here in Portugal, the favorite fast-food is Frango!  Frango is Portuguese for chicken, it’s far from KFC or Popeyes’, rather it’s a specific type of chicken that is best roasted or grilled over hot coals – normally called Frango no Churrasco (chicken on the grill) or Frango na Brasa (chicken on the hot coals) *Note: The term galinha normally refers to a larger, fattier chicken that’s stewed or used for soup*.  

A whole chicken is butterflied open and put in a typical marinade mixture of olive oil, white wine, garlic, bay leaf, lemon juice and paprika. When ordered, it’s taken out its marinade and placed on a rotating spit over a flaming hot coal pit, basted with a sauce similar to the marinade, with a touch of butter and a hint of piri-piri added. And just like Portugal’s pastelarias, you can find plenty of local places to taste this chicken across the country. In fact, I know of five just in my neighborhood!  And though some places are sit-down restaurants, the majority are tiny hole-in-the-wall take-out places where you can call and order ahead of time to pick up or wait about 15-20 minutes if you order in person. Not too bad for fast-food, huh?

So other than the convenience, what makes Portuguese frango so darn good?  Well, for starters, you can basically get some good chicken at pretty much any of the chicken places here in the country, but of course, there are some places that go well-beyond just good. For these gems, I think the key to their greatness is not just their “special sauce” (because no good establishment will ever reveal their exact recipe), but ensuring they consistently brush the chicken with the sauce while it’s cooking, then brushing it a final time when it’s done, so the chicken remains moist and juicy. This seems to be the method at our favorite little chicken place in our neighborhood Campo de Ourique, called Prazeres do Frango, meaning “chicken pleasures”. Clearly the name suits them well! Run by a friendly Goan man from Moçambique (frango no churrasco is also quite popular in the former Portuguese territories) who’s lived here well over 30 years alongside his wife and family, he’s renown for his incredible grilling skills. So if you’re in the area, and are craving some really good frango, stop by there and I guaranteed you will not be disappointed!

Another famously delicious type of frango is Algarve‘s Frango da Guia, named after the town of Guia in the district of Albufeira where it originated.  The claim to fame  is by José Carlos Ramires, who had a vision when opened a small café and bar in Guia in 1964, bringing a recipe he said was oriunda no Ultramar or “from the former African colonies.”  This recipe used a much smaller chicken or “Franguinho da Guia”, weighing between 600-700 grams or about 1 1/4 pounds that is cut into very small pieces and grilled over hot coals well-coated in a sauce made of  “piri-piri, oil, salt, garlic and Sr. Ramires’ secret ingredients,” resulting  in a very crispy skin and a flavor uniquely different from the regular grilled chicken. Café Ramires eventually turned into the present-day Restaurante Ramires where they invite you to come enjoy this now gastronomical tradition of Guia. And if you are in fact, a serious chicken lover, you should check out Guia’s Festa do Frango or “Chicken Festival”.   Hosted over the course of 2 days, this year being on the 4th and 5th of August, it speaks only to chicken lovers, especially those who crave Frango da Guia!   Just keep in mind that Albufeira is a summer tourist hotspot, especially in August, so go early!  And if you happen to be in Madeira, you can still enjoy some of that tasty style of chicken at the popular Frango da Guiia restaurants, who brought the Algarve recipe to the islands and put their own spin on it.

Check out our full recipe on delicious grilled Portuguese chicken!


Sonia Nolasco

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