Custard Tarts, Chinese Bakeries, and a 178 Year Old Portugese Recipe

Eastern Bakery San FranciscoDahn Tat Eastern Bakery via Yelp
You may have tried the ubiquitous Custard Tart, or “Dahn Tat,” found in almost every Asian bakery. On the west coast of the U.S., they originally appeared in chinese bakeries like the Eastern Bakery, the oldest chinese bakery (1924) in North America located in San Francisco (above) and Phoenix Bakery, the oldest chinese bakery (1938) in Los Angeles (below). These pastries are much unlike the other baked and steamed delicacies from China, and no doubt were the result of influence by the portuguese bakeries in Macau. The chinese version has a delicate golden, flakey crust and custard so light it seems steamed rather than baked.
Phoenix BakeryDahn Tat from Phoenix Bakery Los Angeles Kimberly K. attributed
The portugese version is a bit different, and called Pasteis de Nata. The most famous bakery in Portugal is Pasteis De Belem in Lisbon. Their recipe is over 178 years old – – the bakery’s founder bought the recipe from a monastery in 1837! The pastry chef here (and founder’s son-in-law) started working here at age 15, and dedicated his life to making the “perfect custard tart.” He is now 76 years old, and people make a pilgrimage from around the world to eat his custard tarts – – as evidenced by the long lines every week. They sell 10,000 daily and 20,000 on bank holidays. In contrast to the chinese version, their crust has a light crispy crunch and a richer creamy custard. I hope you put this place on your bucket list and let me know when you try them!
Pasteis De Belem via ExpediaPasteis de Nata from Pasteis de Belem via Delphine Fortin
Watch this short video on the history and how they make (by hand!) the Pasteis de Nata at Pasteis De Belem!

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