When I said I was going to Portugal, any friends who had been before said ‘you have to try pasteis de Belem. They’re the best pasteis de nata in Portugal, and they’re amazing!’ Portuguese custard tarts.
When I arrived in Lisbon, I saw them everywhere. Food shops, supermarkets, bakeries – everywhere has pasteis de nata. Costing between 50 cents and 1 Euro, they are a tasty little morsel to be eaten at breakfast, morning tea or for an afternoon snack. Basically, the tart is a very flaky pastry, with a baked custard filling.
On my third day in Lisbon, while Anna and co were at the Nos Alive festival, I went to Belem. I went specifically to try Pasteis de Belem. THE place to go is called Pasteis de Belem, and they have a takeaway counter, or you can sit down at one of their many tables, which seat up to 455 people. I went at 8.30pm, so it was quiet, there was no queue, and I walked right in and sat down at a table. I ordered 1 to eat, and 2 to takeaway. The pasteis arrives, and there is a shaker of cinnamon and one of powdered sugar on the table.
I look at the tart. It has these amazing layers of flaky pastry on the bottom.
It’s still just slightly warm. I take a bit, and YUM! Everything everyone has told me about the pasteis at Pasteis de Belem is true. It’s AMAZING. It’s delicious. The custard filling is perfectly cooked, it’s not overpoweringly sweet, and the pastry is flaky. I want to eat 5, but instead I order a few more for takeaway so the crew can try it.
On my way out, I have a little chat with the waiter. He tells me they make about 40,000 pasteis de Belem a day! There are only 4 chefs in the kitchen who know the secret recipe, and the most senior chef has been there almost 40 years. They’ve been making them since 1837, and they haven’t changed the recipe. Why would you?