The Bifana

By : April 25th, 2021 Gastronomy 0 Comments

If you ask a Portuguese what is a typical street food in Portugal, they will answer: a bifana. Now the question is “What’s that?” 

In Portugal, you will find a lot of sandwiches whose role it is to provide a quick meal, sometimes with only a bowl of soup to complement. I know for a lot of people a sandwich would be enough, but we like to have more filling meals.

You will know that one of the main sandwiches in the country, enjoyed from north to south, is the bifana. 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. 

Seems basic enough, doesn’t it?

Yet, everywhere you will try one it will taste different.

And this is 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?!

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. As you go further south, though, the steak is no longer cut and is instead beat with a mallet, it is mostly garlicky and not spicy at all – instead, they suggest you eat it simple or with mustard. Also, the bread is lightly toasted. And, sadly, there is less sauce as well.

But which one 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.

Anyway it is so typical in Portugal that also Mac Donald had to introduce a Mac Bifana in its menu. 

How can you make a Bifana?


  • 4 sandwich bread rolls (Portuguese papo seco)
  • 1½ lb pork cutlets , sliced very thin
  • 5 cloves garlic , chopped
  • 2 oz. lard
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt
  • Pepper , freshly ground


  • In a container, place a layer of cutlets and season with salt, pepper, bay leaf, paprika, lemon juice and garlic.
  • If necessary, make several layers with all the cutlets, seasoning them the same way at each layer.
  • Finally, pour the white wine over the cutlets and marinate for 3 hours in the refrigerator.
  • In a large frying pan, hear the lard over medium heat.
  • Drain the cutlets and reserve the marinade. Fry them in lard over high heat, turning them constantly.
  • Once the cutlets are fried, add the reserved marinade and cook over medium heat until the liquid has evaporated by half.
  • Toast the bread loaves.
  • Fill each bread with cutlets and drizzle with the remaining sauce.

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