the francesinha, porto’s offering to the sandwich gods

what to eat in porto?  like all other cities i’ve visited on this european leg thus far, the answer has been ‘seafood’ with octopus and cod as some specific meals.  well, i’m out of luck when it comes to shellfish (octopus and squid included) and i’ve had bacalhau already which is something along the lines of a cod fritter/fishcake.  so a little bit of a research brings me to… the francesinha.

what is a francesinha you ask?  well, it’s a sandwich made with:
-bread
-wet-cured ham
-linguica (portuguese sausage)
-steak/roasted meat
now that we’ve got the build of the sandwich out of the way.  what makes it so special?  well take all of that and cover it in melted cheese, slather it in a tomato-beer sauce (that all restaurants have their own recipe for), top it with a sunny side up egg and serve it with a plate full of fries.

sounds healthy, right?

so to get down to it… almost every cafe/diner in porto sells this gem of a sandwich and as i only had time to ingest one of these, i went with cafe santiago.  this shop is so busy that they’ve opened up two storefronts along the same street and there’s no signs of business slowing down.  the great thing about all restaurants in porto is that turnover seems fast without feeling rushed so a sidewalk full of people today turned into only a five minute wait

i’ll admit that i chickened out and didn’t order the most extreme version on the menu which was to have cheese on top of the fries.  2000 calories for lunch seemed like a reasonable amount without getting ridiculous.

so all those ingredients mixed together results in this:

francesinha1

not a whole lot to look at, i’ll give you that much, just a big orange blotch with a few white squares on it. cutting it open revealed the layers of meat

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ooey, gooey goodness. with meat. what i wouldn’t give to have one of these after snowboarding…

at first bite, all it tasted like was a cheese sandwich with some tomato sauce.  subsequent bites had more meat content and the flavours were jumping all over the place.  some bites had more sausage, some with more roasted beef, some with more ham but every bite had a healthy layer of sauce.  the salty, tomato flavour softens up the bread to help your jaw chew through this beats of a sandwich.

i also noticed that the cheese wasn’t fully melted; just the top was.  from my nerding out, it seems like the sauce needs to be hot enough to melt the cheese when poured on top, immediately before serving.  so when cutting and pulling the pieces of the sandwich away from each other, the cheese is still quite rubbery (i realize that’s a horrible word to describe food but bear with me) which might be why i enjoyed this sandwich so much.  the last poutine i had was at home maybe six months ago and i miss the way places like la belle patate makes them, with montreal cheese curds that are so rubbery/chewy that they still squeak when you bite into them.  this sandwich had all the makings of a poutine but with a little more of a tomato flavour versus gravy.

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my bites were slowing down towards to the end… partly to savour the last bites, partly to catch my breath

recommending this sandwich to anyone feels like an inhumane thing to do; i can’t in good conscience push something with so little nutritional value onto a friend but having said that, it was delicious and i will definitely be looking for another one in lisbon next week :)

i also came across a post of a blogger who doesn’t eat meat yet talked herself into trying (and hating) a vegetarian francesinha.  salty vegetables with warm lettuce simulating one of the layers of meat.  yikes.  that sounds like a nightmare of a ride.

for those interested in making the trek out to this joint, details are below.  i’m sure there are fancier and cheaper ones but this one did juuuuust fine.  my only advice is to not skip out on the egg and cheese.  share the real deal if you need to, just make sure you get that egg.

cafe santiago f
r. de passos manuel 198, 4000-382 porto, portugal

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