We’ve both known this type of sandwich since our childhood. Bifanas are common at the Portuguese family social club dances we both used to go to with our families (not the same ones though) on Saturday nights. These pork sandwiches are not all prepared and cooked the same way, however. Different regions of Portugal (including the Azores) each have their own take on this sandwich.
The type of Bifana that Nelson made is done in the style and tradition of Ribeiras–the town in the Azore’s island where he lived with his parents for 8 years. These Ribeiras-style Bifana sandwiches are known all over the island. Some people go to the dances just for the Bifanas!
Nelson doesn’t claim that his recipe is exactly like the one from his town–he says there’s something magical about the ones from his town. Maybe it’s a special touch from the cooks, maybe it’s the naturally-raised pork, maybe it’s the quantities of each component of the marinade, or maybe it’s the salt in the air from the atlantic ocean. Either way, he’s confident that this is pretty darn close…and that it’s darn delicious.
These sandwiches are actually really simple; they aren’t even served with toppings (not traditionally, anyway). The way to achieve the amazing flavour is that the pork is flavoured for a few hours in a garlic, wine, and citrus marinade. It’s then cooked with the entire marinade liquid – ensuring that all the flavours are completely incorporated into the pork. The result is simply yum.
Here’s a tip for you (it’s what Nelson remembers fondly from his town’s social club)…fill the bun with the pork, then quickly dip a tip of the sandwich in the pan to soak up some of the sauce. When you do it…you’ll know why. OMG….
- 2½ lbs pork tenderloin
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- ½ tbs course salt
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¼ cup white wine
- 1 tbs (a mild) hot pepper sauce (or Frank's hot sauce as a substitute)
- 3 tbs unsalted butter
- 4 large crusty buns
- Thinly slice the pork tenderloin in into pieces and place in a large bowl.
- Add the minced garlic, course salt, lemon juice, lime juice, white wine and hot pepper sauce.
- Mix well, cover and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or over nights.
- In a large pan, melt the butter on medium high.
- Once the butter is melted and starts to bubble, carefully pour in the pork and marinade.
- Straighten out the pork to make one layer and cover.
- Continue to cook on medium high until the liquids are reduced to half.
- T]Uncover and taste a piece of pork for doneness. The pork should tender. Adjust salt if needed by adding another pinch or two.
- Shut off the stove.
- Cut large buns and pile meat onto the bottom of each bun. Spoon some of the sauce from the pan over the meat.
- Place the top of the bun on the sandwich and serve hot with a cold beverage!