Egg Tarts !!

16 November, 2007 at 2:30 pm | Posted in » Bite-size Tarts | 3 Comments
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egg_tarts2.jpg

Ever wonder how egg tarts comes about? Do you know that egg tart is related to the English-style custart tart, a pastry commonly enjoyed in the Bristish Isles, Australia and New Zealand?

Well, the earliest record of Egg tart in the east is in a royal banquet for the Kangxi Emperor as part of the Manchu Han Imperial Feast.

Custard tarts were introduced in Hong Kong in the 1940s by Cha Chaan Tengs, and western cafes and bakeries to compete with dim sum restaurants particularly for yum cha. It later evolved to become egg tarts today. At the time, egg tarts were twice the size of today’s tarts. During the 1950s and 1960s when the economy started taking off, Luk Jyu (陸羽) took the lead with the mini-egg tart.

One theory suggests Chinese egg tarts are a Chinese adaption of English tarts with custard filling. Guangdong had long been the region in China with most frequent contact with the West, in particular Britain. As a former British colony, British food naturally assimilated to local Hong Kong tastes. Custard tarts made of shortcrust pastry, eggs, sugar, milk or cream, vanilla, and nutmeg have long been a favourite pastry in the British Isles, Australia, and New Zealand. According to Laura Mason and Catherine Bell’s Traditional Foods of Britain: An Inventory (Prospect Books, London, 2004) a version of custard tart has been made in England since the Middle Ages. The medieval recipe was a shortcrust pastry case filled with a mixture of milk or cream, eggs, sweetening agents, and other spices. Gary Rhodes’s New British Classics (BBC Worldwide, London, 1999) states the recipe of making the modern version of English custard tart has been more or less set since the Tudor times.

There are two types of egg tarts, namely, Hong Kong-style and the Portuguese-style.

Today egg tarts come in many variations within Hong Kong cuisine. These include egg white tarts, milk tarts, honey-egg tarts, ginger-flavored egg tarts (the two aforementioned variations were a take upon traditional milk custard and egg custard, which was usually served in Cha Chaan Tengs: chocolate tarts, green-tea-flavoured tarts and even bird’s nest tarts. Overall, Hong Kong-style egg tarts have two main varieties, divided according to the type of the outermost layer or crust:

  • Butter-flavoured shortcrust pastry (牛油皮): made with shortcrust pastry. It is named “butter skin” in Chinese since it possesses a cookie-like flavour with a rich butter aroma.
  • Puff pastry (酥皮): made with puff pastry and with an extremely crisp texture. Lard is typically used in making the base rather than butter or shortening. This type is regarded as the most traditional and correct form of egg tart by food critics.

Other varieties becoming more popular in the ever increasing focus on health are:

  • Milk-centered egg tarts. It is composed of a smooth milky egg-white center and is considered by some to be somewhat healthier than traditional egg tarts.
  • Bird’s nest egg tarts. Bird’s nest pieces are added to the egg center.

Compared with the original English custard tarts, milk is normally not added to the egg custard, and the tart is not sprinkled with grounded nutmeg or cinnamon before serving. It is also sometimes (though not always) served piping hot rather than at room temperature as per English custard tarts.

Portuguese-style egg tarts were evolved from “pastel de nata“, a traditional Portuguese custard pastry that consists of custard in a crème brûlée-like consistency caramelized fashion in a puff pastry case. It was created more than 200 years ago by Catholic Sisters at Jerónimos Monastery (Portuguese: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) at Belém in Lisbon. Casa Pastéis de Belém was the first pastry shop outside of the convent to sell this pastry in 1837, and it is now a popular pastry in every pastry shop around the world owned by Portuguese descendants.

The Portuguese-style egg tarts known in Macau (葡式蛋撻, more commonly simply as 葡撻) originated from Lord Stow’s Café in Coloane, owned by a Briton named Andrew Stow. Stow modified the recipe of pastel de nata using techniques of making English custard tarts. It has since become available at numerous bakeries, as well as Macau-style restaurants and Chinese, Hong Kong and Taiwan branches of the KFC restaurant chain. There was a craze in Singapore and Taiwan in the late 1990s.

(Source from Wikipedia)

I have my try on making Portuguese-style egg tarts yesterday… unfortunately, it does not taste as nice as it looks in the pix =( 

Maybe it’s the recipe… or maybe it’s the tactic… nevertheless, I will keep trying until I get the perfect recipe for the perfect egg tarts…  =D

Here are the pix,

Ready to bake
Ready to bake

Done!
Done!

Close up
Close up

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3 Comments »

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  1. I downloaded the picture.. I want to preview it in my blog.. Hope u’ll be okie with it… 🙂

  2. Nata was known to the Portuguese (Macanese) before Stow introduced his version – ; my great grandmother from Macao has a recipe for it in her recipe book. My great-grandmother had a restaurant and bakery in Hong Kong in the 1930s.

    • Ken, can you share the recipe, I love pastel de nata, and cant find it here in vancouver. please and thank you


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