The traditional pork sandwich is often consumed late at night with beer, but you don’t have to be drunk to enjoy one.
Bifana origin story
The Bifana is a simple pork sandwich so no one really knows its true origin. However, many say that the dish was first made in Vendas Novas, a town about an hour east of Lisbon in the Alentejo region.
Today, folks in Vendas Novas are proud of what they claim is their culinary invention and there are lots of places that say they originated the Bifana. Café Boavista and A Chaminé are two of them, and who knows, since they’ve been around for so long, one of them could be the true inventor.
What is a Bifana?
You’ll find Bifana served at bars and cafes all over Portugal. They’re cheap (as little as a Euro or two) and often are paired with a beer and maybe a bowl of soup for lunch.
Simply, a Bifana is a pork sandwich. It is served on a crusty roll.
Within that simple description lies quite bit of room for variation.
The thinly sliced pork is usually simmered in a white wine sauce and garlic along with herbs like paprika and laurel.
In Porto and other northern Portuguese areas, the Bifana is often served with more juice. That means the bun gets soggy almost immediately, so it’s best to down your Bifana quickly. Conga in Porto is the place to get this kind of Bifana.
In southern Portugal and Lisbon, the Bifana is served with yellow mustard. Sometimes, they might add some spicy Piri Piri sauce as a condiment.
The best Bifana, IMHO, is the vegan one served at Lisbon’s terrific Ao26 restaurant. The meatless strips are beautifully marinated and topped with yellow mustard (this is Lisbon, after all). This cruelty-free Bifana is served on an English Muffin which means the bun stays crispy. Highly recommended.
Another spot, the recently opened Green Revolution in the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon also makes a terrific vegan Bifana. Rather than soy or seitan, Green Revolution makes theirs with marinated mushrooms. It comes on a more traditional Portuguese bun. It’s great paired with a glass of MUSA, the craft beer from Lisbon on draft at Green Revolution.
About the Author
Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, Porto, Sintra, Monsaraz, and Evora in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all podcast platforms.