At its core, Portuguese food is simple yet powerfully flavorful and the bifana is a perfect example. Marinated in a mix of white wine, paprika, olive oil, and lots of garlic, thin slices of pork steak are wedged between tasty bread, creating one of Portugal’s favorite sandwiches. No fuss, no mess, and it pairs perfectly with a glass of Sagres or Superbock.
Portuguese cuisine relies heavily on its neighbor, the Atlantic Ocean, but it isn’t all fish and seafood. On the contrary, the Portuguese can also be keen meat-eaters (especially those who live inland and around the mountains) and pork is oftentimes the preferred meat of choice. Indeed, pork is a staple that’s as much loved in Portuguese cuisine as bacalhau, salt cod.
Used to make a variety of sausages, cooked in stews, fried and roasted, pork is versatile and easily seasoned, perhaps one reason for its popularity. And the bifana is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to enjoy it.
Are all bifanas the same? Once you try one can you go without trying any others? Most locals will tell you no and suggest that their region makes this popular “fast-food” sandwich the best. At the end of the day, your personal preferences will dictate where you should go to sink your teeth into the sandwich that will always have you craving more. For instance, if you’re addicted to mustard, Lisbon and the Algarve will deliver with a seasoned sandwich and a bottle of basic mustard that you can add to your heart’s content. On the other hand, the Portuguese from the north will insist on pouring the sauce used to cook the meat into your sandwich, soaking into the bread in the process.
A few restaurants stand out among the multitude, and one of the obvious places to try bifanas is the Casa das Bifanas in Lisbon, north of Praça da Figueira. In Porto, it’s hard to say which spot is more popular: Casa Guedes, near the Jardim de São Lázaro, or Conga, located a block from the Avenida dos Aliados.
For €2 – €3, it’s hard to go wrong with these Portuguese sandwiches, and they are sold practically everywhere in the country, found at local street vendors, cafés, and tasca restaurants. You can even find bifanas, or McBifanas, at many Portuguese McDonalds.