Porto: My “little” Francesinha

020 Porto

This is one sandwich you would not soon forget. Hailing from the northern Portuguese city of Porto, the Francesinha (Frenchie in Portuguese) is made with bread, ham, sausage, steak, loads of cheese and served topped with a hot tomato soupy sauce in a bowl. AND THERE’S AN EGG ON TOP. Oh, and it’s served surrounded by drowning chips as well. It’s a city treasure, that’s washed down with a draught beer and bound to clog a few arteries. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s delicious.

Supposedly invented by Daniel da Silva in 1960 as a Portuguese take on the croque-monsieur, this is hardly at all similar to its French, glorified toastie, cousin. Its meats are thick, its cheese is stretchy and its bread is soggy. I encountered a fair amount of debate regarding this sandwich from people I knew who’d given it a gamble. Both sides of the fence were accounted for, so naturally I had to try one myself. Getting a tip was a good idea, even if getting a table was tricky. Surrounded by locals and tourists alike, I had never encountered a cafe that was genuinely full of people all eating the same sandwich!

Tess had hers sans chippies, but I wanted the whole shebang and was glad I got it – I didn’t need to eat again for quite some time. The main reason my Francesinha got a thumbs up from me was the meat. Apparently, when locals argue about the sandwich it comes down to the sauce or the meat. For me, I had expected and wanted the sauce to be spicier than it was. So, while the sauce was tasty, it wasn’t the winning ingredient. The meat won me over; predominantly due to the fact it surprised me. Paying a little extra meant better quality meat, and while it’s difficult to stuff up ham or sausage, the steak was actually a pretty stellar medium rare. The cheese was certainly a stretchy textural thing rather than a flavour, but when everything came together (including the tomato drenched fries) it made for a bizarre, filling, yummy and unforgettable culinary experience.

If you end up in Porto you should try this sandwich for yourself. Find somewhere that’s busy and wait if you have to; don’t buy one based on it being the cheapest you see, and don’t expect to want to eat dinner. Do, however, consider following your Francesinha up with some Port tasting across the river.

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