This is the meal you have when there’s no time to sit down for lunch, but your hunger can’t be satisfied by a snack - like in the middle of Popular Saints’ celebrations in June (Santos Populares), or at the height of winter. It’s thin cuts of pork leg, lean and boneless, seasoned with garlic, bell pepper paste, bay leaves and onions, though each establishment and food truck puts its own ancestral knowledge into the seasoning. Usually, through the windows of the specialised bifana joints you can always see an old, large pan with meat cooking and smoking all day long. It is served in a “papo-seco”, a type of puffy and very light bread (though some serve it in denser bread, with thicker crust).
It’s the top specialty at Beira Gare, which has been located at the entrance of Rossio train station since the 19th century. But don’t expect a vintage restaurant with waiters wearing vests and bow-ties: this is a local venue for everyday Lisboners, with an aluminium counter, quick service and pictures of the food on the wall. Unwary tourists order grilled fish, but you informed reader must perch yourself at the counter, order a bifana (as well as a vegetable or rice soup), and season it yourself with mustard or hot sauce.