Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Portugese Egg Tarts v. Pastel de Nata

Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Portugese Egg Tarts from Margaret's Cafe e Nata, Macau

There is a very good reason why the best Portugese egg tarts are found in Macau and not Portugal. Portuguese egg tarts do not exist in Portugal! Ever since I visited Margaret's Cafe e Nata in Macau, which serves one of, if not the best Portugese egg tarts in the whole of Macau, I've been dreaming of flying off to Portugal to eat these sweet, delicious, wobbly, crispy things at its source. Because everything is better at its source, right? Wrong. Portugese Egg Tarts and Pastel de Nata aren't even the same thing!

Pastéis de Nata from Porto, Portugal

Okay, maybe they are not completely different. They are made from essentially the same ingredients, except the recipe for Pastel de Nata often asks for cream, while the recipes for Cantonese egg tarts ask for fresh or evaporated milk instead. Portugese egg tarts? I haven't seen any on the internet that looks even remotely close to the ones I had in Macau, but the recipe is probably somewhat of a cross between the two. In terms of taste, Cantonese egg tarts are most "eggy", followed by Portugese egg tarts, and when you come down to tasting the "custardy" Pastéis de Nata, you might wonder if they used eggs at all! But of course they do, custards are made from eggs. Essentially, Pastéis de Nata are more accurately described as custard tarts, or to be even more accurate (since technically the term custard can apply to egg tarts as well), the texture of the filling resembles a curd more than anything else. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. Pastéis de Nata are actually really good. Except it's just completely different from the Portugese egg tarts in Macau. In fact, egg tarts were derived from Pastéis de Nata. It won't be fair to say which is better because they're not the same thing. But I definitely dig the ones in Macau a lot more, particularly the ones at Margaret's Cafe e Nata (I'm not speaking for the rest of the egg tarts in Macau) - it's just so creamy, yet irresistibly "eggy"at the same time, and comes with the best buttery crust I've ever had.

Snapshots of Porto, Portugal

So I did fly to Portugal like I dreamt, and had more egg custard tarts than I can remember. There were some that really wow-ed. I found the best combination to be a buttery crust made of many, many layers and a custard that has just the right balance of sweetness. Those were fantastic. Remember the idiom "Don't judge a book by its cover"? Well, it doesn't apply to egg tarts. Or custard tarts, for that matter. Judge it. Look at the crust and see how many layers they have. Do you smell butter? Do you see the custard quibble ever so slightly once you move your hands? Is it fresh out of the oven? Or has it been sitting there forever? You gotta judge your tarts. Just look at the photos! Don't tell me it's not obvious which were amazing and which just didn't make the cut. Okay actually I made it easy for you cause I already arranged the Pastéis de nata photos in a pretty obvious order.

At the end of the day though, I still miss the Portugese Egg Tarts at Margaret's Cafe e Nata. Have you tried those?

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Leave a comment (4)

  1. yes, I've had Portuguese egg tarts at Margaret's Cafe e Nata in Macau. and I agree. they were absolutely delicious!

    I really enjoyed your pastel de nata article, because much like you, I've been planning to travel to Portugal to explore the beauty of the country AND eat more Pasteis de Nata.

    I've already compared Macau's Portuguese-style egg tarts to Hong Kong's best Cantonese egg tart bakery. both were really good, but totally different. so I'm glad that there's someone else who's been craving and comparing like I have : )



  2. Hey Kelly,

    I'm glad you enjoyed reading! You must be referring to Tai Cheong Bakery in Hong Kong? I miss the ones from Margaret's Cafe e Nata so much... Good to know I'm not the only one crazy over these egg tarts(:


  3. You have to try the pasteis de nata from Pasteis de Belem to truly settle the score. I find many pasteis de nata in average bakeries to be very mediocre, much like egg tarts can be at neighborhood bakeries in HK/Macau.

    1. Hey Anon, you are absolutely right. I've spoken to a few friends and it seems like the pastel de nata in Lisbon is a different league altogether. It's on my to-try list for the next time I hit up Europe.


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