You haven’t really been to Porto if you haven’t eaten a Francesinha; which translates to ‘little french girl’. Mon Dieu! It surprises me the French haven’t raised objection yet. As the story goes, a dear ol’ chap named Daniel da Silva returned to his hometown Porto after living in France for a while, and in a moment of epiphany, put together an adaptation of the famed French croque-monsieur; a very loose yet ingenious adaptation. The only similarities between the two sandwiches, is that they both have ham, cheese and bread. In every other way, the Francesinha is about as French as the Queen of England.
Anyway, coming back to the sandwich at hand, it’s a multi layered masterpiece, made with thick slices of bread, ham, linguiça (which is a type of cured sausage or chouriço), fresh sausage,steak and cheese; which covers the sandwich like fondant a wedding cake. And if that in’t enough, you can have a fried egg on top. What really brings it all together is sauce, which makes or breaks a Francesinha. They say the original recipe of the sauce is a mystery, perhaps a really well kept secret. Each chef makes his/her own interpretation using the essential ingredients – beer and tomato.
Typically the dish is served with a generous helping of fries, but we just ordered a portion of fries among three ’cause we simply didn’t dare. I think it’s the sort of sandwich a sailor could eat before going out to sea, knowing rations for the next few months would be limited. I think, a couple of weeks on, I am still burning some of the calories I consumed that night. But would I eat a Francesinha again? I most certainly would.
When in Porto, I recommend visiting Cafe Santiago for Francesinha. You may have to wait for a table, ours took an hour, but it was totally worth the wait!