During my time in the Philippines, I was constantly looking for comforts from home. At one point, I scoured the aisles of every grocery store within a 15 mile radius of my hotel looking for Frank’s Hot Sauce, or even Sriracha – spending nearly a month on my journey before I hit paydirt. During that quest though, my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw Nando’s chicken sauce on the shelves. How in the heck was this stuff readily available, when I couldn’t find the other mass produced brands I was so desperately seeking?
I love Nando’s. I just couldn’t believe this small chain had managed to find its way onto Filipino shelves. Starting out in South Africa in 1987, the restaurant has grown to worldwide appeal – but I just hadn’t realized to what extent. Really, all finding this did was make me yearn for that charcoal grilled chicken, slathered in their incredible hot sauce.
I had been home less than a month before I couldn’t take it any longer. Nando’s cravings had overtaken my system. There was a frigid, icy blizzard that had made the roads unsafe for travel. Pfffft. To hell with that. Police warnings to stay inside weren’t going to deny me another day. I was getting Nando’s!
Emily and I made our way down to the Merivale Road location. It was -25 degrees, which caused us to barrel inside so fast that I forgot to snap a picture of the exterior. Which was fine; it was covered in a record 28cm snowfall.
Inside, chicken and charcoal perfumed the air, as workers dutifully grilled away. It was magic; like watching David Copperfield paint the Sistine Chapel. Once my saliva defrosted, I was drooling.
Seated, I was given a menu – which was a bit of a joke because if you aren’t ordering chicken, you don’t deserve to sit in these hallowed halls. My wife, nearly 8-months pregnant, took a walk around to keep her blood moving, and immortalized the wall of sauce in digital form.
One of the neat things about Nando’s, is that no two restaurants look-a-like. This completely breaks the rules of franchising – but they like to stay true to their roots, by buying native art from Johannesburg and supporting the artists from their home. I admire them for it, as long as the food is always uniform from location to location.
Look at that plate. This thing is straight up boss. Their peri-peri vegetables are char-grilled with their in-house spice blend, cooked JUST long enough to get a charcoal kiss, but short enough to retain their crunchiness. The mashed potatoes are a savory blend of green onion and sour cream; a combination to die for. At the end of the day though, the chicken is the star – as it should be. The breast is incredibly moist, falling off the bone – with enough crispy charcoal bits to remind you this baby was cooked for a caveman with love. Their hot sauce has excellent kick, and is incredibly flavorful – a perfect blend to wake up your taste buds without causing your pores to leak like a faucet and your mouth ablaze.
My wife, meanwhile, got a wrap.
Personally, I believe when you’re presented with the opportunity to eat the signature dish to end all signature dishes, you should stick with it – but my wife has something of a wrap-obsession, and decided to blasphemously ignore the quarter chicken option. If I hadn’t been in such a daze of overwhelming love from the chicken breast I was savoring, I may have judged her for her decision. She did say it was fantastic, so we’ll let it slide.
I know this blog is read by friends all over the globe – and wonderfully, in the case of Nando’s, it may be available near you! A comprehensive list of this growing chain is found on their website. If you haven’t had it, and you can get to one, do it now. Drop your keyboard, put down the phone, hop in your nearest preferred method of transportation, and feed yo self. Once you’ve shaken off the chicken-gasm, you’ll thank me.