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What is the Francesinha?

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The Francesinha is most likely to be the most typical dish of Porto. While making people very curious with its unusual shape and size, we keep getting questions such as what is the Francesinha ? What do we know about it? Where does it come from? And why is it called the “Little Frenchie“? In this article we tell you all about it and its origins!

Francesinha, The tower of power

First, if you are hungry we advise you to stop reading now, you might get even more hungry… or just book one of our private Gourmet Tour where you get the chance to taste a mini-version of it 🙂

Some relate to the Francesinha as a “Tower of Power” and some other to a “Belly-Buster”, but we can for sure say that it is a very heavy dish!

In between two slices of toasted bread, it is composed of:

  • wet-cured ham
  • linguiça
  • fresh sausage like chipolata
  • mortadella
  • steak or roast meat

This tower of food is entirely covered in melted cheese, an optional fried egg, topped up by a spicy sauce made out of beer, tomatoes and spices. As many other portuguese recipes, the original recipe of the Francesinha also includes a secret ingredient. 
Yes, you read correctly, all of this in one single dish ! Oh yeah… we forgot the French fries but they are optional! 🙂

Photo by Aditya Moses from Pexels

Its origins

Daniel David Silva, is the genius behind this wonder. When coming back from his stay in France and Belgium where he worked for a couple of years, he wanted to create a portuguese version of the very famous French “Croque-Monsieur”. While working in the restaurant “A Regaleira” in Porto in the 60’s, he mixed the Portuense flavors with the concept of the Croque-Monsieur, and created a sauce that became since then, the soul of the Francesinha.
It is said that Silva gave this name as a tribute for his huge admiration for the liberal French women, the most “spicy” of his time but many other theories exist.
The blog Portoalities reveals a very interesting fact. This was an afternoon dish at first. It used to be done without the steak and a little bit of sauce which was much spicer than it is nowadays. Later the Francesinha became a main dish.

What makes a good francesinha?

Many restaurants claim to have the Best Francesinha of Porto. Yet, we cannot blame them, who would not say that their own is the best? But we have to be honest, not many places respect the traditional recipe. A Francesinha can be one of the best dish you’ll ever have, however, a bad Francesinha will turn you off from eating it a second time. 

In general, if no one has recommended you any particular place, it is hard to know if a Francesinha is good or not, mainly because it all depends on the ingredients and not on the look. 
The main key point of a good francesinha is the sauce. In fact, the sauce has to be a bit spicy. Furthermore, the quality of the ingredients makes it the second key point. The meat plays a big part in the success of this dish, and it goes without saying that its quality alters the taste of the Francesinha. If you do it yourself, we would advise you to go to your local butcher. 

Many stores sell a pre-made version of the sauce, and there as well, it’s hard to know which one is good unless someone tells you which brand you should take. 
Let’s be clear, it will never be as good as a fresh made sauce, but it’s a good option for the one not wanting to spend 2 to 3 hours just making the sauce. We made one not so long ago with a pre-made sauce bought in a store and it was for sure not the best, but definitely not the worst we had. As you can see , it still looks very tasty!

Homemade Francesinha

Our Recommendations

We have tried a lot of Francesinhas, also in many places which where highly recommended to us. However, our choice goes to two different restaurants in town, the Alfandega D’Ouro and Aquele Tasco. Unless you don’t like the dish by itself, we are pretty sure that you won’t be disappointed!

Alfandega D'ouro

Why do we HIGHLY recommend this restaurant? Well, for many different points:

  • One is the place itself. The restaurant is located on top of the museum “World of Discoveries”, and the atmosphere inside is very warm.
  • Two is the quality of the ingredients. While eating it, you can taste all the different sorts of meat that are inside.
  • Three is how they finish the cooking of the Francesinha. After being cooked in the normal oven, they pass it for a couple of minutes in a wood-fired oven. It adds an incredible smoky taste to all the different flavors of all the ingredients.

So where is it ? Rua de Miragaia 106, 4050-386 Porto

Aquele Tasco

This is a great alternative to Alfandega D’Ouro if you are looking to get a mini version of it! Yes we love this place for this and for its quality! Their mini version can be the perfect snack after a shopping session in Rua Santa Catarina as it is located a couple of minutes away, Rua de Fernandes Tomás 478, 4000-211 Porto

The Francesinha festival

This weekend The Francesinha Festival do Baixa starts in Porto. For the fans of the dish, it will give them the chance to discover more than 20 different variations of the Francesinha along with a cold beer and live music! This will take place at Praça de Dom João I, Porto and the entrance price is 3€ per person and free for kids under 12 years old. It is also FREE for everyone coming before 5pm during the week days. 
It will all start on this 26th of September at 7pm and will go on until the 6th of October 2019.

Opening Times: 
Monday: 12pm – 11pm
Tuesday: 12pm – 11pm
12pm – 11pm
12pm – 11pm
12pm – 12am
12pm – 12pm
12pm – 11pm

Did you know?

In 2011, the Francesinha was elected as one of the 10 best sandwiches in the world by the site AOL Travel along some other sandwiches from China, France, Denmark, India, Italy, and more…


Did we convince you to go eat one this weekend at the Francesinha Festival? If you are not there, book a Gourmet Tour with us, we will bring you to the right address! 

Here at Portours, writing this article definitely made us hungry, so it’s time to eat!

Bon appétit and see you soon in Porto!

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Tour Director | Content Creator

Besides touring with the client as a private tour guide in Porto, Jimmy is our content creator. Always looking to share his knowledge, he writes all the articles for Portours in order to keep you up to date with what is going in Porto and Portugal.

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