Portuguese egg tarts (蛋挞, literally meaning egg tart) are a typical pastry from Macao with origin in the colonial past of the city, and nowadays, a dessert with presence all over Asia.
This tart is made of a puff pastry case, filled with custard with a crème brûlée–alike consistency, caramelized on top (seen above). Do not confuse with the “simple” version of the egg tart, which is not as tasty as this one.
This pastry was slightly adapted to meet local tastes as they are considered the Asian version of the ‘pastéis de nata‘ (葡式蛋撻), a traditional Portuguese custard pastry. For example, in Portugal they are served warm and with cinnamon (in Asia without it).
Pastéis de nata were created more than 200 years ago by Catholic Sisters at Jerónimos Monastery, at Belém in Lisbon. Casa Pastéis de Belém started selling this pastry outside the convent in 1837, and today it is a successful and famous pastry shop (see their complete history here).
After their popularity in Portugal, pastéis de nata were introduced in China through Macau, when this SAR was under Portuguese government. In Chinese they became known as 蛋挞, which in pinyin can be read as dàntà (note the similar sound with the Portuguese word nata, which means cream), meaning egg (蛋) tart (挞).
Anyway, the good old-fashioned pastéis de nata (called Portuguese egg tarts in Asia, remember) should taste like slightly burnt sweet caramel and custard, instead pure yolk as the ordinary egg tarts do.
The pictures above are from Gongbei Underground Market, in Zhuhai. If you are in Macao and forgot to pick up this tasty souvenir, you can do it in one of the pastry shops located in this market. And almost at half the price from Macao: 3 RMB!
Their popularity all across Asia is because fast food restaurants (such as Kentucky Fried Chicken) included egg tarts as desserts since the 1990s in their menus, which eased their acceptance. Local recipe adaptations and franchises such as Lord Stow‘s or Ko-Kei’s bakers, and the famous Tsui Wah Restaurants (which I highly recommend) in Hong Kong, also eased the introduction and appreciation of the many variations on pastéis de nata in Asia.