Very often, on our delicious Food Tours, we tell our guests that they cannot leave Porto without trying Bifanas. And almost always they reply “What’s that?” Hence, we have decided to share with you everything that a bifana is.
As in any other cuisine…
We too like to snack, and so various dishes were created to fulfill this important part of one’s life. In Portugal, especially in the Porto region, there are many sandwiches designed for a quick meal, sometimes paired with just a bowl of soup. While some may find a sandwich enough, we prefer heartier meals.
Once you discover the Best Sandwiches in Porto, you’ll learn that one of the main sandwiches in the country is the Bifana – enjoyed from north to south. Simply put, it’s a steak sandwich. A pork steak, to be more specific, seasoned with garlic and spices, then put inside a bread roll. Sounds straightforward, right?
Yet, each one you try will taste different and that’s the beauty of it! How is it possible that a piece of steak can fit so perfectly in a bread roll and present you with a mix of flavors that will make your taste buds spin?!
Not all Bifanas are created equal
In the North of the country, it is usually made with little pieces of steak that have been spiced and seasoned in a big pot with sauce, and it’s usually a bit spicy. The bread is a simple white bread roll, that ends up being moistened with the steak sauce.
Heading south, they switch things up. The steak is no longer cut and is instead beat with a mallet, it is mostly garlicky and not spicy at all. They recommend having it plain or with mustard, and the bread is lightly toasted. Unfortunately, there’s less sauce in this version.
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But which Bifana is the original?
It is said that the original one comes from the town of Vendas Novas in Alentejo, in the south of the country. If you are ever there, try the ones at Café Boavista. The bread is toasted and crunchy, and the hot steak with mustard makes it an out-of-body experience.
Now, everyone claims to have the original, but let’s not dwell on that. Who cares about the original when you just want the best one? Imagine, if they were all the same, you couldn’t go on a Bifana spree. And on that note…
Here are our favorite places to try Bifana in Porto
Conga – Casa das Bifanas
Conga, established in 1976 in Porto, is THE spot for trying bifanas. While it recently got a bit of a facelift, it still retains the traditional vibe. They have a magic cauldron where the bifanas are made, where they cook all day with the juices from the meat and the seasonings. And that sauce? The flavor is something else! Give it a try and feel free to thank us later. For the best view of the bifana action, we recommend enjoying it at the counter.
Taxca (A Badalhoca)
Taxca, a popular spot for small bites in the city, has gained a following for its straightforward, tasty, and relatively quick food. With dishes priced from 2€ to 4€, it’s easy to be a frequent visitor. Among its offerings is the bifana, served hot with a hint (sometimes not so subtle) of spice. When it comes out of the bifana pan, expect sauce-dripping meat chunks in a simple bread roll. Watch out, sometimes the meat pieces might try to escape onto your plate. Keep an eye on them!
Rei das Bifanas
Out of the city center, there’s a bifana gem called Rei das Bifanas – at least that’s what they claim. Near the football stadium, it’s a traditional spot with a steady clientele. Don’t expect fancy; expect a delicious and authentic bifana. And when that tasty bifana sauce starts dripping down your hands, no need to worry about judgmental looks when you lick it off – that’s totally accepted.
Another traditional spot, Poveiros Snack-bar, offers a friendly service. Their bifana may not be as strongly flavored as others, but it’s still a solid example. Plus, they have a homemade chocolate mousse that makes for a delightful dessert.
With what drink to pair your bifana?
One last thing, it is near sacrilege to pair your bifana with anything other than a beer and preferably the local craft beer or the traditional SuperBock. If you get a raised eyebrow for ordering water, consider yourself warned!
Found another great bifana while in Porto? Let us know!
Taste Porto Foodie Team