“I want to try francesinha” I said to my Couchsurfing host, a local living in Porto.
“No, you shouldn’t because it is not a traditional Porto’s food and it is not even good” replied my disapproved host.
“I don’t care, I want to try it. That is the famous dish that everyone talks about. The guide I met today even recommended the best cafe to have a francesinha.” I protested.
Francesinha is a Portuguese word for Little Frenchie. There is nothing Frenchie about the food except that it drew inspirations from croque monsieur which originates from France. It was a dish originated from Porto, created in the 1960s by Daniel de Silva, a returned emigrant from France.
Francesinha is a sandwich which consists of sausage, ham, cold meat and beef steak, some may replace it with pork loin. It is drenched with melted cheese and also a secret gravy that comes optional with fries.
There is nothing he can do to stop a determined foodie from eating one. I turned up at Café Santiago F the next day for lunch. The cafe was bustling with both locals and tourists. People were spilling out of the doorway, waiting for seats.
I was in luck that there was one counter bar seat available when I walked into the cafe.
The smell of food hit my nostrils and made my stomach rumbled.
I was reminded of my hunger. The warmth of the cafe was welcoming for a temporary shelter as I hide away from the ruthless cold street. I took an instant liking to the ambience because it was warm, casual and lively.
Despite the crowd in the cafe, it did not take long for my francesinha to arrive. Cut out a small bite and put it in my mouth. The bread was nice and soft and the meat was tender. The melted cheese and secret gravy add to the savoury taste complimenting the meat. It was flavourful and I like it!
When I worked half way down the sandwich, I started to fill a little jelat*. The gravy became a little too rich and making it less appetising as the first few bites. Ordering a beer proved to be a good choice to clear the palate between bites.
While waiting for my lunch, I struck a conversation with an Asian boy sitting next to me at the bar counter. He turned out to be an exchange student from Singapore doing the last bit of travelling before returning home!
What are the chances that you get to sit beside a fellow Singaporean overseas? I was thrilled!
I like to meet Singaporeans overseas with the exception of Bangkok.
Bangkok is like a little Singapore. No matter where you go, you will bump into Singaporeans. Sometimes, you will even bump into friends you never bump into in Singapore!
Meeting Singaporeans overseas are a sort of comfort. I can allow Singlish to creep out of my mouth without worrying that people will not understand me. It is the ‘Singaporean’ identity which bonds us no matter where we are.
For the fact that we are Singaporeans gave me a sense of familiarity. After our francesinha, we spent the afternoon wandering the streets. We hid in a cafe and make good use of the Wifi when it got too rainy and windy for our tropical-accustomed body. It was comforting to hang out for an afternoon for the sense of familiarity.
Singaporean and food. Ah~ why should I be surprised to find a Singaporean in a cafe? We are well-known to be foodies, aren’t we?
And verdict? Of course, I would recommend having francesinha in Porto.
Have you tried Porto’s francesinha? Would you recommend it too?
*overload of richness