The Earl of Sandwich is credited with the idea of placing food inside two slices of bread. But it was Portuguese peasants who turned this aristocratic whim into something sublime.
In ancient times, peasants in Mealhada, a town in the Bairrada region, used to offer their largest pigs to the nobles who owned the land. The peasants were left with small pigs called “leitão” (“laytaoum”). They roasted them in wood ovens, seasoned with garlic, bay leaves, olive oil, and plenty of white pepper. The meat, cut into slices and served inside country bread, produced amazing sandwiches.
One of our favorite side trips from Lisbon is to drive the 90 km to Mealhada to enjoy a freshly-made “leitão” sandwich, accompanied with local sparkling wine. On the way there, we visit the beautiful Batalha monastery. On the return, we stop by the enchanting Bussaco Palace for coffee and pastry. The delicious food and beautiful scenery always make for memorable trips.
There are many good restaurants in Mealhada serving “leitão à moda da Bairrada” (leitão Bairrada style). Two of our favorites are Meta dos Leitões (IC2, Estrada Nacional 1, Sernadelo, Mealhada, tel. 231 209 540, email: firstname.lastname@example.org) and Pedro dos Leitões (Rua Alvaro Pedro no 1 Sernadelo, Mealhada, tel. 231 209 950).