Francesinha (meaning Little Frenchie or simply Frenchie in Portuguese) is a Portuguese sandwich originally from Porto, made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries.
It is said[by whom?] that the Francesinha was invented in the 1960s in the region of Alentejo. Daniel da Silva, a returned emigrant from France and Belgium, tried to adapt the croque-monsieur to Portuguese taste. However, the recipe was not particularly appreciated in the region and clashed with the typical Alentejo cuisine. Afterwards, Daniel da Silva moved to Porto, where the Francesinha became a very popular dish and is associated with the city, although it can be sometimes found elsewhere in Portugal. A classic francesinha meal would include the sandwich, surrounded on a bed of chips doused in the famous sauce, and complemented with a fino, literally meaning thin or fine, which in this context refers to draught beer.
Locals will have their favorite restaurant with the best Francesinha in town, typically arguing about the quality of the sauce (a secret recipe that varies by restaurant) and the quality of the meats.
Porto and its surroundings is the traditional area of the francesinha, with many restaurants and cafés serving it. It can also be easily found in several other places across the north of Portugal. In the center and south of Portugal it may be harder to find, but there are an increasing number of restaurants, bars and cafés serving it, especially in tourist destinations like beach resorts ranging from Figueira da Foz to Albufeira. In Lisbon, a number of bars and restaurants serve varied types of francesinha, including variations served with green sauce. Francesinha standard sauce bottles have been sold in supermarkets across the entire country since the 2000s, which may be related with a growth of the sandwich's popularity outside Porto Metropolitan Area.
There is no standard recipe for the francesinha. Different restaurants in Porto have special variations, such as:
Francesinha sauce is a secret, with each house having its variation. The only common ingredient is beer. Most, though not all, sauces are tomato based and vary in their degree of spiciness. The color is usually red or orange. Different restaurants that serve Francesinha are characterized based on how good their sauce and mix of meats is perceived to be.
Francesinha poveira is a form of francesinha distinctive to Póvoa de Varzim, north of Porto. Also created in the early 1960s. The poveira form uses different bread and sauce to form a sandwich that can be eaten by hand.
Pica-pau is a breadless variant in which a steak is cut into bite-sized pieces and covered with sauce. The name pica-pau (woodpecker) references the traditional means of consumption with small skewers or toothpicks—making the diner "peck" at the dish.
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