Meet the Princessa sandwich – an outstanding partner to craft beer. It is an open face sandwich that is best eaten warm. Toasted bread smothered with an insanely flavorful ground pork, onions and herbs mixture and baked. All the delicious juices from the ground pork seep into the bread. Each bite invites (more like mandates) a sip of beer. Seen from beer’s perspective – a most desirable ally.
I grew up eating Princessas. I was eating them years before I acquired a taste for beer. Everyone in Bulgaria loves them. They are sold everywhere – at beer gardens, taverns, hole in the wall sandwich places, little street food stalls.
The name has a bit of a convoluted history and is supposed to be inspired by the notion of a Thracian princess (‘princessa‘ simply stands for ‘princess‘). The truth however, most people agree, is that the sandwich simply came to be as a way of stretching the budget during the ridiculously poor years of communism. People took the ground meat that would have been used to make a single kufte and made it go further by spreading it over two slices of bread.
There are two ‘secrets’ to making a good Princessa sandwich:
- the quality of the bread must be superb
- the ground pork must be flavored with generous amounts of summer savory and cumin
Everything else is open to interpretation. Some people mix grated cheese with the pork of their Princessa sandwich, others place thin tomato slices or roasted red pepper slices on top of the bread before they spread the ground pork. Yet others prefer to use beef/pork combo. I love to add diced onion and this is what I did for this post.
At the most basic level though it is all about the bread and the rich flavors of the minced pork coming together in the oven. It is nearly impossible to not want a beer once the enticing aromas of a Princessa sandwich fresh out of the oven tickle the nostrils. Trust me. I had one open while taking these pictures. I am very partial to pairing with the traditional German styles in the case of Princessas. And I was eating the fourth sandwich that didn’t fit on the board below. Because I couldn’t let it get cold… and I had to get a head start before Chris who was making beer outside got a whiff of what was going on.
For this post I used a two day old Pain Pauline loaf. (This bread is humongous by the way). Any good, rustic bread will do, any size. If you can, go with a bread baked from naturally fermented dough as it is easier to digest. It just should not be too soft, because the dripping juices from the ground pork will make it soggy. In addition to my bread being two days old, I also toasted the slices in the oven before spreading the meat mixture on them. Similar to what you’d do to make a bruschetta.
I love to add a lot of summer savory and cumin, the combo is a miracle worker for the taste buds. Thyme is always a plus. All the ingredients need to get mixed very well with the ground meat and then spread on top of the bread and baked (or broiled) until the meat is cooked through.
I put extra virgin olive oil in almost everything and drizzle it over almost everything, including kimchi, pizza and fries (as in already fried fries). It is super delicious to dip the crust of the Princessa sandwich into salt and pepper flavored EVOO. Then have a few sips of beer.
Beer suggestions for Princessa sandwich. Enjoy!
- Crisp lagers with bread/toast notes, malty character – Helles, German Pilsners, Dunkel, Maibock, Bohemian Pilsners
- Wheat beers – Weissbier, Wit, Dunkelweiss
- English style IPAs (learn more)
- Belgian golden ales
Open face sandwich made with rustic bread topped with a mixture of ground pork, cumin, summer savory, egg and onions then oven baked. Popular street food in Bulgaria.
- 8 slices of rustic bread*
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 egg
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1/2 tbsp summer savory, reserve a pinch for garnish
- 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- pinch of thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- Toast bread slices to firm them up.
- Mix the ground pork with the egg, onions, spices and 1/2 tbsp olive oil.
- Spread over each slice of bread.
- Place sandwiches in a 350°F oven and bake until ground pork mixture is cooked through (about 20 minutes).
- Garnish with summer savory before serving.
* 4 if using a large loaf such as Pain Pauline
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 273Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 240mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 18g
French Canada has a pate they spread on toast made of ground pork, Creton is delicious. This seems quite similar with different spices. Pinning to try as a new variation. Sounds delish.
That does sound delicious. I wonder if I’d be able to find it in a specialty store here somewhere. If not, will seek out a recipe. Princessas are so simple, the summer savory and the cumin are what really makes them stand out.
Maryanne | the little epicurean says
This sounds delicious! I never heard of Princessa Sandwich, but now I’m super interested.
You might just like it:)
Agness of Run Agness Run says
Wow! This sandwich seems delightful! Can’t wait to prepare it, Milena!
Thank you Agness and I hope you do, it is so easy and so worth it!
Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers says
This is completely new to me, but I’m loving every bit of it! My husband would love these with a great beer, so I must surprise him with these 🙂
Thank you Jennifer, hope your husband does get to try a Princessa:) It is all about the bread and the spices.
Dawn - Girl Heart Food says
You are TOTALLY making me hungry as I’m reading this right now and ‘every bite invites a sip of beer’? That sounds like quite the sandwich to me 😉 I can taste this right now with all the savory and cumin. I can understand why you couldn’t let that 4th sandwich go cold – that would be a shame 😉 P.S. Love the expression ‘tickle the nostrils’. Where has this sandwich been all my life??
Only one thing left to do Dawn:) A test! I am pretty sure that if you made one you’ll get thirsty for a beer:)
Kelsie | the itsy-bitsy kitchen says
I’ve never heard of a princessa sandwich but it sounds wonderful! I can get behind just about anything if good bread is a component :). Did you grow up in Bulgaria? And if you did, why didn’t I know that? (I’m guessing you can’t answer that last question, haha!) Have a great weekend Milena!
Thanks Kelsie. Yes, I did grow up in Bulgaria and lived there until graduating from college (BS degree only). Princessas are inexpensive and for any 18 year old (legal drinking age there) a great budget choice as beering snacks:) Had maaany of them back in the day:)