The roots of Macanese cuisine go back to the late 1400s. But one of its most popular dishes only dates from the 1940s. The Portuguese exploration of the world in the 15th century brought the discovery of new ingredients as fleets sailed from Europe, via South America, around Africa to Southeast Asia, and onwards to Macau and Japan. En route, the sailors and soldiers stuck to their native cuisine but added ingredients unearthed on their travels. These men, it seems, were responsible for the dish that was to become African chicken, or galinha ? Africana. Macau Culinary Association president Raimund Pichlmaier recounts that the soldiers' curried chicken was refined in the 1940s by a chef called Americo Angelo, who combined spices from Angola and Mozambique with paprika, white wine, tomatoes and red bell peppers to create the dish's distinctive flavour. Made buttery from garlic, sweet from peanut butter and simmered coconut, and spicy from paprika, African chicken now has many renditions. Angelo worked with a Chinese cook at the restaurant of a hotel called Pousada de Macau, from where the dish spread to the menu of most of the enclave's Macanese and Portuguese restaurants. It may not be quite as much of a staple as the salt cod dish bacalhau, but it is high on the list of Macanese favourites. Pousada de Macau's Chinese cook left to work at the Solmar restaurant, which is still open today, taking the recipe with him. Angelo moved to a restaurant called Estoril and then the Hotel Lisboa, putting the dish on the menu at both establishments. At the Lisboa, Angelo worked with Pichlmaier and a chef named Manuel Ferreira, who was coincidentally the grandson of the owners of Pousada de Macau. Pichlmaier describes Angelo as 'quiet, kind, hardworking and a hands-on chef'. Ferreira opened another restaurant that has become noted for its take on the dish, Restaurante Litoral, equally known for its baked duck rice and grilled cod. In 1976, Raymond Vong opened Henri's Galley, a culinary institution famed for its version of African chicken. Vong says he acquired the recipe by hiring the chef from Solmar to moonlight for him. The recipe is rich and generous, with a sauce that should be thick with grated coconut and peanut butter. Some restaurants smother the chicken in the sauce, while others use it as more of a refined coating. While Litoral and Henri's Galley fall into the smothering school, a more restrained version is to be found at the training restaurant of the IFT (Institute for Tourism Studies) hospitality school, which is on the site of a former barracks. Lecturer and food and beverage manager Hugo Bandeira, past president of the Macanese Gastronomy Association, says the school offers 'a more modern version, that is more pleasing to the eye'. He adds that that it's served with roast courgettes and couscous. Spice levels vary at each restaurant, but the hallmark of a well-made African chicken is a slightly buttery and nutty flavour. Bandeira says the dish owes its popularity to the fact it is a 'simple yet complex' food experience. Restaurante Litoral 261-A Rua do Almirante Sergio Tel: + 853 2896 7878 Monday to Thursday noon-3pm, 5.30-10.30pm Friday to Sunday noon-11pm Educational Restaurant (IFT) Colina de Mong-Ha Tel: +853 8598 3077 Monday to Friday 12.30-3pm, 7-10.30pm Closed weekends Henri's Galley 4G-H Avenida Da Republica Tel: +853 2855 6251 Thursday to Tuesday 11am-10pm The original recipe from Henri's Galley Key to a good African chicken are the freshness and plumpness of the bird and the richness of the sauce. Ingredients 100ml corn oil 1 chicken, quartered 70 grams garlic, chopped 70 grams shallots, chopped 70 grams sweet paprika 100 grams red bell peppers, chopped 130 grams grated fresh coconut 70 grams peanut butter 400ml chicken stock 1 bay leaf Black olives, coriander and sliced large red chilli - Heat the oil over a medium-high flame in a large pot. - Place the chicken skin side down and let it brown. Turn the chicken to seal. - Take the chicken out, add the garlic, shallots, paprika and bell peppers. Saute and add a little of the stock. - Add the rest of the ingredients and put the chicken back in the pot. - Let it cook for five minutes and reduce to a low flame and cook for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is done - Remove from heat, garnish with olives, coriander and sliced chilli, and serve.