Pastel de nata
||It has been suggested that this article be merged into custard tart. (Discuss) Proposed since February 2011.|
The typical appearance of the pastel de nata, in this case, confectioned in Macau
|Alternative name(s)||Pastel de Belém|
|Place of origin||Portugal|
|Region or state||Santa Maria de Belém, Lisbon (originally); produced worldwide within the Lusosphere|
|Creator(s)||Religious of the Monastery of the Hieronymites|
|Serving temperature||Fresh from oven, with cinnamon and icing sugar|
|Main ingredient(s)||Egg yolks|
|298 per 100 grams (3.5 oz)|
A pastel de nata (Portuguese pronunciation: [pɐʃˈtɛɫ dɨ ˈnatɐ]; plural: pastéis de nata), is a Portuguese egg tart pastry, common in Portugal, the Lusosphere countries and regions (which include Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, Timor-Leste, Goa, and Macau, introducing them later in Mainland China), and countries with significant Portuguese immigrant populations, such as Canada, Australia, Luxembourg, the United States, and France, among others.
It is believed that pastéis de nata were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery (Portuguese: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém, in Lisbon: for this reason, they are alternately known as Pastéis de Belém (singular: Pastel de Belém). During Portuguese medieval history, the convents and monasteries of Portugal produced large quantities of eggs, whose egg-whites were in demand for starching of clothes (such as nuns' habits) and also in wineries (where they were used in the clearing of wines, such as Porto). It was quite common for these Portuguese monasteries and convents to produce many confections with the leftover egg yolks, resulting in a proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.
Following the expulsion of the religious orders, and later the closing of many of the convents and monasteries in the aftermath of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, the production of pastéis de nata passed to the Casa Pastéis de Belém nearby. It was this association, with the parish of Santa Maria de Belém that resulted in its popular name: Pastéis de Belém, after the name of the area and its bakery. The former religious clerics, in order to keep producing the secret and distinct recipe, therefore patented and registered the confection, while contracting the Antiga Confeiteira de Belém, Lda. to produce pastries based on their original recipe. The secret was transmitted to five master pastry chefs who guarded this original recipe, under the Oficina do Segredo, which later passed into the hands of familial descendents.
Since 1837, locals and visitors to Lisbon have visited the bakery to purchase fresh from the oven pastéis, sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Their popularity normally results in long lines at the take-away counters, in addition to waiting lines for sit-down service.
The simple recipe has had various alterations in the Portuguese pastelarias (pastry shops) and padarias (bakeries), in the shape of the pastry cup and the filling. One of these methods includes making the custard in a bain-marie (a bowl over boiling water) rather than combining all the ingredients at once in a saucepan. Some prefer the cream slightly "curdled" to give it a rustic appearance and unusual texture.
In 1994, researchers from the Laboratory of the Gastronomic University of Milan, Italy, prepared a report which concluded that the recipe of the original pastéis de Belém probably included (besides the common ingredients - milk, eggs, etc.) "potato flakes" similar to those used to make mashed potatoes. According to drafts that were disseminated in private between close associates, the group of researchers was confident that they had found the well kept secret, since gourmet experts, invited by the laboratory for double-blind trials, were not able to distinguish the original pastries from those produced by the group based on the results of their research. However, after a brief period of private discussion (while waiting for the results of tests conducted with a broader sample), and before having the chance to publish the report, the study was suddenly halted, apparently after a request from elements connected to the Oficina do Segredo, therefore the ongoing tests were discontinued.
In the Azores, the patries are referred to as queijadas de nata, rather than the title pastéis de nata used in mainland Portugal; in northern Portugal the abbreviated form nata is used in all but the most technical contexts.
Foreign acknowledgement and propagation 
- In 2006, this confection was chosen to represent Portugal in the European Union Café Europe initiative, held by the rotating-presidency under Austria for Europe Day.
- Pastéis de nata were introduced in Mainland China after gaining their popularity in Macau when this Special Administrative Region was under the Portuguese government. In Chinese they became known as 蛋挞 (simplified) or 蛋撻 (traditional), which in pinyin can be read as dàntà or dàntǎ (with the similar ending sound of the Portuguese word nata), literally meaning egg (蛋) tart (挞). Fast food restaurants chains (such as Kentucky Fried Chicken) include the dàntà as desserts since the 1990s, which facilitated their acceptance in other Asian countries: Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan (popularized by franchises such as Lord Stow's bakery) and the other Chinese SAR, Hong Kong.
- The Pastéis de Belém were mentioned by The Guardian as the 15th most tasty delicacy in the world.
- Dominick Merle (11 August 2004)
- André Amaral et.al. (December 2011), p. 5
- "The 50 best things to eat in the world, and where to eat them (The Guardian)".
- Merle, Dominick (11 August 2004), There's history - and a secret - in every bite, retrieved 23 April 2012
- Amaral, André; Pires, Carla; Castro e Silva, Daniel; Medeiros, Luís; André, Mário Rui (December 2011), O Segredo do Marketing dos Pastéis de Belém (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: Escola Superior de Comunicação Social, Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa