Macau & the search



The Portuguese egg tart is the Macanese gift to the world. Fluffy, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth — but with that yummy caramelized top — it kicks the pants off your average dim sum egg custard tart. If you haven’t had one, you really don’t know what you’re missing.

New York City’s Chinatown caught onto the fad a couple years ago and, I swear, you couldn’t walk fifty feet between shops without finding them for sale. Heavenly! Unfortunately, I haven’t been out east in awhile, and I’m told this phase came and went long ago in Hong Kong, and so they’re nowhere to be found there. One might come to the conclusion, like me, that the only course of action left to take would be to sample the goods in their home turf. But be warned: Macau’s appeal may be elusive at best.

A decade or more in the past, before the handover to China, I imagine things were pretty charming — with the colorful colonial architecture around Largo do Senado, narrow, hilly alleys lined with Chinese shops, and the Corniche, described in a guidebook of the past as “the most romantic ocean stroll in southeast Asia.” All of it seems slightly perverted now; with acres of reclaimed land growing, tumor-like, out of the coastline, huge hulks of imported Las Vegas emerging from the concrete (“Wynn,” proclaims the new glass-and-steel monstrosity, a perfect copy of the one in Nevada, and further down, a full-scale replica of a Roman fishing port). Even the picturesque, colorful buildings around Senate Square reveal themselves to be mere illusion, as you pass through the doorway of a beautiful, ancient church into an ultra-modern, ultra-generic… Starbucks? McDonalds? Further down the street we see one, a free-standing fa├žade, ready to accept a new heart — the kind that runs on battery power.

Turned off after a couple hours of such exploration in hellish heat, we were back on the ferry before we knew it. As we sailed back over the South China Sea, video screens showed a trailer for Poseidon, and I realized we’d completely forgotten to locate tarts.

Better that bit of Macau not be in me than have any bit of me in Macau, I suppose…

(but I’m still bitter)

  • pastilla

    Lord, I love it when you food blog . . .

  • Patty

    [this is good] It's unfortunate that the Chinese are so keen to make everything ultra-modern, at the expense of the unique history of the area.

  • They're all over London, too, since a few years back. I used to try to make them, but no way could I get that caramelized top. So instead I put some ground almonds into the custard, put a dab of apricot jam underneath inside, and pretended I was a Granada pastrycook in the 12th century. Little things . . .

  • foxymoron

    Nice post.

    There are Portuguese egg tarts in Hong Kong. I've seen (not tried) them at the Macau restaurant on Lock Rd. in Tsim Tsa Tsui. That's the street behind the old Hyatt hotel. I've heard they're good.

    Good luck.

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