If you are ever fortunate enough to visit the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, you are in for some wonderful foodie discoveries. One of their specialties is a baked pastry called Pastel de Nata. It is a small egg custard tart, sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon and definitely worth a try. It won’t be difficult to get hold of one, as Lisbon has a great café culture where you can easily find them. However, make sure you don’t leave it too late in the day, because they do sell out quick!
History of the Pastel de Nata
Back in the 18th Century, in the parish of Santa Maria de Belém in Lisbon, French monks from the Jerónimos Monastery started craving the small custard tarts that they could get back home. Due to the Liberal Revolution in 1820, many monasteries started to close. To help make ends meet, the monks started to make and sell the small pastries they missed so much, from a sugar refinery that was conveniently close by. When their monastery finally closed in 1834 they sold the recipe to the refinery. The owners of the refinery opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém in 1837.
Pastéis de Belém
If you travel to Belém in the south west part of Lisbon, you will find the very same Pastéis de Belém, which is still owned by the same family who opened it in 1837. It is a very popular attraction. Crowds of visitors flock to the bakery daily, to get the Pastel de Nata straight from the oven. You will see queues of people lining up to take them away or to sit down and enjoy them with a coffee.
If you visit the Pastéis de Belém, you can even see them being made. The bakery must easily sell several thousand a day, and they are very cheap too. When I visited earlier this year, it was only a few euros for a pastry and espresso.
This tasty little baked good can be found all over the world, where there is a significant Portuguese population.
If you are thinking of a to Lisbon, another good reason to visit is to try their Cherry Brandy, Ginjinha.