Bifana, that famous Portuguese pork sandwich

In Portugal there is a very popular sandwich we call bifana.

When we talk about bifana, we can be talking about one of three things: pork made from steaks of the middle fillet or Shank end pig areas, or sandwiches with pork steak, or the mentioned pork steak served on a plate with french fries.

In this article, I want to focus on sandwiches. The reason is simple and is due to the fact that bifana sandwiches are one of the most frequent sandwiches/snacks/meals at fairs, markets, food trucks, and festive occasions in public areas or similar situations/places.

There are numerous versions of steaks and when we buy them, we can add internationally known sauces such as mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, etc.

But there is a version of bifanas that is so widely appreciated that there is a village, Vendas Novas, in the Alentejo, that boasts of being the owner of the best bifanas and in that village, there are a large number of restaurants that make bifanas in this special way. I refer to the Bifanas of Vendas Novas.

Unfortunately, I can’t find information about the origin of Bifanas of Vendas Novas, so I can’t reference their origin.

Regarding these bifanas, it is necessary to say that the big secret is the combination of the meat quality, the sauce recipe, and in the way of cooking the meat.

When tasting the sandwich, we can feel a slightly fried steak, because of the toasted parts, but also cooked for its uniformity. Immediately stands out the sauce in which flavors of wine, paprika, and garlic dominate.

Depending on the restaurant, we can have a sandwich in which the meat is presented in whole steaks or cut into pieces.

Personally, I prefer bifanas with meat cut into pieces.

Naturally, the best option, so that you could judge how good these sandwiches are, was to join me and taste them. However, if you can’t do that, I will leave you with the recipe and you can try to do it yourself.

Ingredients and quantities for four bifanas:

    • 4 bifanas (the meat itself);
    • 4 loaves of bread;
    • 2 garlic cloves;
    • 2 bay leaves;
    • 20g of margarine;
    • 20g of lard (pork fat);
    • 1 glass of white wine;
    • tablespoon of vinegar;
    • paprika or paprika paste;
    • salt;
    • piri piri;
    • mustard.

There are three stages of making these sandwiches:

Marinade – Place the bifanas (1), the salt, the bay leaves, the white wine, the paprika/paprika paste, the bay leaves, the garlic (2) on a high platter. and the Piri-Piri, mix everything and let stand between thirty minutes to an hour.

    1. If you prefer the meat cut in chunks you better do it at this point.
    2. The garlic cloves are smashed as it is presented below, do not cut them in slices.

Frying – In a frying pan, place the margarine and lard and heat a little, stirring constantly, until these fats are melted. Then add the garlic and bay leaves that were in the marinade and fry the garlic a little. Drain the meat well, leaving the sauce on the platter where the meat was marinated. Put the meat in the pan and fry it until it has slightly toasted parts.

Cooking – Put the marinade sauce inside the pan, add the vinegar, and let it cook for about ten minutes. Check how does it look like in the video bellow. After cooking, turn off the heat and let the whole contents gain more flavor and cool down a little and you will be ready to serve on the bread.

Mustard is often added but there are those who don’t, preferring to taste the sauce.

The great companion of bifana is beer.

Enjoy your food and let me know if you like it.

David Monteiro

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