If you are not familiar with this Portuguese snack bar staple, a Bifana is simply a pork sandwich. They are widely available across the country and so popular that even McDonalds created their own version. They are commonly linked to VendasNovas, a small town in the Alentejoregion with several cafés and snack bars specialized in the bifana making, all claiming to serve the best one. As many classics of the Portuguese cuisine, the recipe can vary from a region to another. Today we share with you our recipe for Porto style bifanas.
Porto Style Bifanas in Portugal
For those familiar with the bifanas available in both Central and Southern Portugal, the Porto variety might sound a bit strange. It’s is a slightly different sandwich made up of multiple layers of meat, covered in beer sauce. You might think we are talking about Porto’s iconic Francesinha, but that is simply how the bifanas are served in Porto.
In a Porto style bifana, the single pork cutlet is replaced by thin layers of pork meat that has been cooked in a boozy sauce. The bread rolls used remain the same, a light but crusty Papo-Seco, and the mustard becomes an extra rather than what makes the sandwich a bit juicier. Although substantially different from the Southern version, the Northern bifana serves the same purpose – it is great for a light lunch or an afternoon snack, and the perfect match for an imperial.
Our Porto Style Bifana Recipe:
For this recipe, we asked our butcher for thin slices of pork loin. If you are in Portugal, you can simply ask for bifanas, and if the cuts are too thick, a meat tenderizer will do the job of making them thinner and more tender.
For the sauce, we used blonde beer, a touch of ruby port wine, and seasoned it with some bay leaves, paprika powder, chili powder, and cumin. As for the bread roll, we used Papo-Seco which is soft but firm enough to hold its content together. You can use any type of roll that is crusty on the outside but airy in the inside. We personally like to spread some butter and lightly toast the rolls in a frying pan before assembling the sandwich. Now it is time for the recipe!
- 500g pork loin – thinly sliced
- 25g lard
- 15g olive oil
- 1 medium onion – sliced
- 2 garlic cloves – roughly chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp cumin
- ¼ tsp chilli powder
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 100g passata
- 1 cup water
- 2 bottles of 33cl blonde beer
- ½ cup ruby port wine
- Black pepper
- 4 bread rolls
- Place a medium pot over medium heat, once hot, add the olive oil and lard. Once the lard has melted, add the onion and bay leaf frying it for around 2 minutes.
- Add the chopped garlic, let it cook for a minute before you add the spices. Fry everything for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour in the passata, beer, port, and water. Season it with salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil, then allow it to gently simmer for approximately 25 minutes. Place the pork cutlets in the sauce, let it stew for 20 more minutes.
- Now it’s time to put it all together. Add 3 to 4 pieces of pork to each one of the bread rolls, pour some of the sauce on top of the meat. Enjoy it with a glass of your favourite beer or wine!
Which do you prefer? The Northern or the southern style bifana?