The Francesinha: Porto’s most deceiving ‘sandwich’

The Francesinha: a gastronomical wonder of a city that has stood the test of time for hundreds of years. It is so widely known today, that those more extreme would say that visiting the city without ever having this dish, would be pretty much like visiting Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. Allow us then to peak your appetite as we go on exploring this recipe that is much part of the city of Porto.




More than meets the eye

From a practical perspective, the Francesinha is without a doubt a sandwich, in the sense that all of its content is enfolded between two slices of bread, but it’s what lies in-between those slices and all around it that make it unconventionally large for a sandwich and one of the things that stand out about this wonder of the city’s cuisine. So what is the francesinha, what’s it made up of? First of all, you can’t just use any kind of bread, only tin loaf shaped bread does the trick. At the heart of it you have a beef steak, placed on top of a layer of hot-dog sausages and other cured kinds of sausages (chorizo or linguíça) and if you don’t mind those extra calories you can always place another layer right on top of the bunch, topped with yet another layer of ham and baloney. Now if you were thinking this was already stuffing enough, you’ll be surprised to know we’re just halfway through. Layers of molten cheese laid all over it and to top it all, the whole dish is bathed in a special sauce, the cornerstone of this delicacy, a secret that has been so well kept through the ages, the original recipe for it seems simply to have vanished amidst the many replications you see nowadays. In essence the base for this sauce is done with beer, tomato and chilli peppers, but then it’s mixed with a cocktail of various beverages that range from Port, to Douro red wine, whisky, brandy, amongst others, making it quite thick, flavourful and with a touch of spice to it. Put all of it together and serve it with a couple of chips on the side and you have yourself a full meal to last you for the rest of the day.



The Francesinha beyond Porto

So it is no surprise the Francesinha easily became Porto’s most popular dish. Made for the common man, plentiful of flavour, yet so easily affordable, that is the recipe for the success of this delicacy that has been delighting the locals for years and now the city’s many visitors. The origin of the Francsesinha, if you believe the story, traces its way back to a Portuguese migrant, whose name was Daniel David Silva, who returned back to Portugal and opened shop right here in the city. According to the same story, he is thought to have inspired himself on a recipe from where he was working abroad, the French Croque-monsieur, which is for itself a sandwich made with ham and molten cheese, giving it his own personal touch. Such a success it was, his own restaurant, known as A Regaleira became an iconic reference in the city for its very own famed Francesinha, a reference that has sadly closed doors earlier in the present year. But from its starting point, the Francesinha has made a long journey since then and more recently, aside the adaptation for vegetarians, a spin-off has come to light: the Francesinha à Poveiro, a lighter approach to it within a hot-dog bread, being also known for that reason as the ‘Special Hot-dog’. All these and much more await around every restaurant in Porto.




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