Pica Pau

Pica Pau

What’s that? Pica pau means fried WOODPECKER?! Thankfully, this
dish of Portuguese meat-magic might have a misleading name, but
ordering the slices of gravy-laden pork loin is certainly no mistake.

Though pica pau translates as woodpecker, no crimsonquiffed Woodies were harmed in the making of this dish. The moniker merely relates to how it’s typically eaten, pecked at with toothpicks. The sauce that smothers the strips of meat may date to the 1960s, when returning emigrant Daniel da Silva tried to adapt French food for the Portuguese palate. Whatever its provenance, it is now one of many staple petiscos – a Portuguese equivalent to tapas.

You’ll need
500g (1lb) pork loin
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
2 tbs of butter
½ onion, peeled and sliced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and
Paprika and chillies to taste
2 cups (500mL) beer (or
white wine)
Sliced pickles
Bread to serve

Cooking Method
1 Cut the meat into thin strips; season with salt and pepper.
2 Heat the oil and butter, then add the onion and garlic and saute until soft.
3 Add the paprika, chillies, more salt and pepper and meat and saute for 10 minutes.
4 Add the beer (or wine). Bring to a boil then simmer for 45 minutes.
5 Stir in the pickles.
6 Serve with bread for dipping.
TIP Not all recipes contain chillies – the spiciness levels are up to you. Be warned: if you use Portuguese piri-piri chillies, these are hot, hot, hot!

Tasting notes
You can find pica pau on fancy menus, but really, there’s no need. Find a spit-n-sawdust tasca, with FC Porto vs Sporting Lisbon blaring on the TV, and you’re good to go. Order a large pica pau and some beers and get ready to peck; essential tools are a toothpick to spear the meat, fresh bread to soak up the gravy and a stack of serviettes. A connoisseur might be looking for the right balance of olive oil, pickles and acidity, and a spiciness to make your lips tingle but not enflame. Hungry football fans won’t care a fudge – to them, the tender pork, oozy sauce, cold beer, banter and beautiful game are a match made in heaven.

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