Enjoy South African Cuisine in Houston
Peli Peli for South African Fusion
My husband and I traveled into the Uptown District of the city of Houston for an exotic tasting experience at a local restaurant called Peli Peli, which specializes in South African fusion. Under a dome-shaped room with warm LED lights accentuating waves, like the soft South Africa sands, I took in the ambiance. The hue of comfortable colors had me imagining a South African sunset while illuminated figures encompassed the dreamy room, including the strong, husky rhinoceros and the mini, African Penguins. I truly felt as if had traveled to a far off place as Peli Peli’s food caught my eye.
Among the amazing dishes that passed by my booth, a dangling vertical skewer of juicy, plump meat hunks seemed to be the most requested dish. As someone who doesn’t eat much meat, even I wanted to snag a hunk or two. I expected delicious tiny portions, however I was very wrong. The entrée I ordered was called Curry Spaghetti Squash. The roasted, green curry spaghetti squash was piled high in the center of a large plate surrounded by tomatoes, cilantro, toasted coconut, mango chutney and seasonal vegetables.
The waiter suggested I mix my ingredients together for one amazing taste. He was right, wow! The flavors of the warm curry with mango infused squash was a delicious, creamy combination. The tingle on my tongue was extinguished by cooling fruit flavors. Never have I tasted something that was clearly designed to show off freshness but also allowing each ingredient to stand out and complement the other.
According to the Peli Peli website, Peli Peli means Bird’s-Eye Chili, which is a spice that was discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th Century on the plains of Southern Africa. Chef Paul Friedman knows exactly what he is doing by uniquely marrying the spice with fruits such as guava, passion fruit, papaya and mango to create an explosion of flavor rather than something that is merely hot and spicy.
Although I have yet to visit South Africa, I experienced a replica of the country’s legendary sunsets. With the evening sun colors, bursting like a ripe peach, I felt tranquility wash over me. I couldn’t help but imagine seeing massive, exotic animals on the plains and the flightless birds waddling into the warm Indian Ocean. The scene was teasing me; Peli Peli’s portal had me inspired to visit a place full of color and vibrancy. If this restaurant was any indication of the actual South Africa, I would enjoy seeing the beauty of the culture along with the amazing cuisine. Of course, I can’t forget the main event — witnessing the breathtaking sunsets!
For my sweet ending, I ordered their most famous dessert, Sticky Toffee Pudding. There’s nothing “pudding” about this confection. The dense moist cake is naturally sweetened by dates, topped with vanilla bean ice cream and garnished with a sprig of mint and berries. I’m a chocoholic, the richer the better, but this dessert left me rethinking my love for chocolate. I wondered what else I’d been missing.
When I stepped outside, into my reality and the sun already set, I wasn’t convinced I was back. With my belly full, I was still in South Africa. The flavors were dancing on my tongue while the enchanting landscape remained in my mind. I’ll be holding to this delectable trip, until it’s time to visit South Africa.
With the attentive staff and unforgettable flavors of the South African fusion, I’ll definitely be back for another dining experience of explosive flavors.
Andrea Albino is a freelance journalist, contributor at In The Know Traveler and Editor in Chief at The Luggage Tag, where she documents her recent travels and explores the greater Houston area. She believes families should not wait to travel and the time is now!
Andrea is married with two active little girls. When she is not writing or planning adventures she is an active member of the community as a school volunteer and youth sports coach.