Chicken or beef? When it comes to good prego, I’m not too fussed either way. As long as there’s a tastebud-tingling ratio of vinegar, garlic, oil and heat, a floury roll and tender protein this humble street food offering has my vote every single time.
A lover of prego since my mother made me my first (minute steak, Nando’s extra hot peri peri sauce, fried onions), I’m happy to travel to enjoy offerings from eateries far and wide. In a bid to narrow down the options, I’ve listed three of my favourites – in Cape Town, Velddrif and Knysna respectively – but I’m always open to suggestion!
Fabrica do Prego – Sea Point, Cape Town
Rubbing shoulders with SANS Community on Sea Point Main Road, Fabrica do Prego offers what is arguably the most delicious prego roll in the city. Formally known as Chippies, this family-run business underwent a facelift – all bold graphics and Bordallo Pinheiro pieces – to become Fabrica do Prego.
Founded in the late Seventies by Manuel Do Rego and Armando Teles, current owner Orlanda Simal saw the potential of the unique concept and joined forces with the founders. The first Chippies Prego opened their doors in Rondebosch in 1996. After these original founders parted ways, it was decided to give the brand a new look whilst retaining their ethos – good wholesome family-style food inspired by the unique flavours of Portugal. Translated as Prego Factory, Fabrica do Prego was born after Orlanda brought her son and now marketing manager Marco on board and together they redesigned the packaging of Chippies’ famous prego, piri piri and barbecue sauces. In a collaborative effort, Marco worked with Francois Rey of Monday Design to develop what are now Fabrica’s instantly recognisable receptacles whilst Parsons Branding handled the illustration design and logo of a girl eating a prego roll.
While the Sea Point branch of Fabrica might only seat around 8 diners, what it lacks in space it makes up for in style. Designed by Wesley Shankland at MOKO architects and Marco himself, Fabrica’s interiors are all neutral geometry and blonde pine brightened up with the occasional Bordallo Pinheiro piece (a brand as iconically Portuguese as prego itself) and Fabrica’s distinctive blue and white sandwich wrappers.
Still offering the same popular prego that fans of the original Chippies know and love, Fabrica has developed a smaller, healthier menu that includes Frango (chicken), Bife (steak) as well as a Mushroom prego for vegans and vegetarians and the Seared Tuna prego for those following a pescatarian diet. Authentic Portuguese dishes such as the battered green beans are alternative to Fabrica’s hand-cut potato chips whilst a vegan-friendly aioli was added to the existing trio of sauces. For the sweet-toothed, flaky Pasteis de Nata are best enjoyed with a cup of Fabrica’s own Liberdade blend – specially developed for the eatery by Deluxe coffee roasters.
At its heart, Fabrica do Prego is essentially offering a fresh take on the flavour that customers have grown to love over the past 23 years. And what with their vaunted prego sauce still spoken about in revered tones, it’s not difficult to understand why diners keep on coming back for more. When asked for a confessional as to what makes the sauce so delicious, Marco replied;
“It’s simple – sliced garlic, chillies, oil, salt and our secret mix of spices (there may be paprika in it) – although unfortunately I cannot share the latter with you”.
Fabrica do Prego-style Chicken Sandwich
- 8 chicken breast fillets, flattened
- 1 lemon
- 4 sprigs of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 small chillies, finely chopped
- 125ml olive oil
- 200ml of Fabrica do Prego prego sauce
Zest and juice the lemon and combine with the rest of the ingredients. Season the marinade with salt to taste and pour over the flattened chicken breasts. Brush the marinade all over the chicken breasts and cover the dish with foil. Leave for a minimum of 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
If grilling the chicken breasts over the coals, a kettle braai works best to achieve a smoky flavour. Using indirect heat, place the chicken in the middle of the grid and replace the lid of the kettle braai. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, basting often with the remaining marinade.
When cooked through, serve the grilled chicken breasts atop a halved floury Portuguese roll with slices of tomato and lashings of Fabrica do Prego’s piri piri sauce.
Gilda’s – Velddrif, West Coast
Possibly the prego with the best view on my list, Gilda’s can be found at the end of Velddrif’s Bokkom Laan. Housed in a historical bokkomhuisie, Gilda’s is an unassuming, unpretentious family-run restaurant specialising in Portuguese fare. And before you wail at the thought of bacalhau instead of bokkoms, the Weskus has it’s own rich history with Portugal – a detail I mentioned in my cookbook.
“With a food history as diverse as the people that call this coastline home, the West Coast has taken on the culinary signature of every culture that has existed, however briefly, upon it. In St Helena Bay, the monument to Vasco Da Gama may be crumbling but grilled sardines, chicken livers and milho frito can be found in neighbouring eateries. “
Helmed by matriarch Gilda Nunes, expect tavern favourites like chicken livers peri peri, crispy squid and that most impressive of main courses – beef espetada. If you’re lucky enough to get it, snatch up the little table beneath the manatoka trees and order the prego – a succulent minute steak basted in a generously garlicky sauce and served atop a soft floury bun with golden chips. Addictively delicious – especially when enjoyed with a view of the beautiful Berg River.
Drydock – Knysna, Garden Route
I don’t often find much reason to recommend “tourist-trap” restaurants. There’s nothing appealing about inflated prices, lacklustre fare and conveyer belt service. Fortunately, none of the above apply to Drydock. Yes the eatery is located in the high-traction Knysna Quays but in terms of quality of service and food, one could be forgiven for thinking that this multi-seater restaurant was more along the lines of a mom-and-pop joint. My point is, they care for their customers.
Grab a seat overlooking the lagoon and meander your way through Drydock’s impressive wine list before ordering (in my opinion and the reason we’re here) their prego roll. While not as traditionalist as Fabrica or Gilda’s, what Drydock’s offering lacks in authenticity, it makes up for in unadulterated flavour. A juicy 200g sirloin steak basted in their house-made prego sauce arrives on a ciabatta bun, along with the crispiest chips and an extra serving of hot sauce. What makes this prego is the onion relish spread over the steak – sticky, caramelised onions that lend a smoky sweetness to the mix. While more steak sandwich than prego roll, there is something undeniably satisfying about the thickness of the steak, the combination of the onions and the heat from the prego sauce.
Utterly mouthwatering and a must-visit each time we’re in Knysna.