In the Spring of 2004, when I was living in Guangzhou, my best Chinese friend Gisèle and I went for a weekend away in nearby Macau. It was only a couple hours drive away from home, and the perfect getaway for anyone who needed a break from the craziness of China without totally leaving the comfort and pleasure of being in fabulous Asia.
Macau – composed of 3 main islands and a mainland attached to China – used to be a Portuguese colony, hence its typical colorful architecture that reminds so much the ambience of Lisbon in Portugal. Christianity has been very much alive in Macau for several centuries, and the most stunning monument that shows this off is the church façade that has been standing alone since 1835, the year when a fire completely ravaged the church, except for the façade. What struck me the most back then in Macau though, and that remained still very fresh in my fond memories of this short trip, was the cobble stoned pavements everywhere in the Old Town (really, the city center on the main land), as well as the color-painted colonial houses on Taipa island. This is so unusual in Asia that it was worth noticing, especially because it was an oxygen wave from Europe without leaving the Asian continent. See the pictures below? Old town that looks like Portugal, hosting stalls of local Chinese spicy dried beef slices. I loved the combination, I always have.
My friend and I went to the famous Casino Lisboa, which was still in 2004 the biggest, most modern and most visited casino of South-East Asia. Only a couple years later, larger projects eructed all over the city, and half a dozen Las Vegas sort of casinos literally invaded Macau, making it within no time the most visited city in Asia for gambling. Shiny; glow-y; glitters all around. Key words! Free drinks, sometimes free rooms to stay over, Macau was crazy fun and made for tourists to really enjoy their time. The weather in Spring is not the best (it’s monsoon season), and the sky is mostly grey, but temperatures are getting hot and daytime really is appropriate for a visit of the islands, especially the area of the well known Black Sand Beach, which is everything but urban. Nature lovers, this is the place. Macau is so versatile!
One last thing that I ate for the first time in my life when I visited Macau was the famous Portuguese or Macau Egg Tarts, aka Pasteis de Nata. They were absolutely divine and I can still remember the taste of it 14 years later. I had more egg tarts later on when Cantonese friends of mine treated me over traditional Sunday breakfast in various places in Guangdong province in China, but I did keep the memory of the very first ones from Macau. I have tried to reproduce them at home. I must say they don’t have at all the proper look (neither the height, nor the fluffiness, nor the final size), but they godly do taste the same. I even had a knowledgeable friend verify the accuracy of the flavors, and my recipe passed, so I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did. The recipe makes 12 regular egg tarts or 18 smaller egg tarts like mine.
- 1 rolled puff pastry
- 230 ml of milk (a bit less than 1 cup)
- 20 ml of light cream
- 3 tbsp of cornstarch or tapioca starch
- 125 g of sugar (1/2 cup)
- 6 egg yolks (keep the whites for another recipe, no waste please!)
- 1 small tsp of vanilla essence
- Cut the puff pastry in 12-18 circles and place in the muffin tray without lining nor butter nor oil. The butter of the puff pastry will be sufficient to grease the tray by itself. The pastry should slightly extend beyond the rim.
- Preheat the oven at 190 degrees Celsius (395 degrees F).
- In a saucepan, dissolve the corn or tapioca starch in cold milk.
- Turn the heat on, add the cream and sugar, and start stirring to make it thicken.
- Lightly whisk the egg yolks before adding them to the mixture, and keep stirring.
- Add the vanilla essence. Remove from heat.
- Immediately pour the hot liquid mixture down to the pastry cups.
- Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top gets brown.
- Take out of the oven and let them rest for 10 minutes before unmolding the egg tarts.
- Eat lukewarm.
- As eating them cold is okay but far from being the best choice, you may want to use the microwave oven for re-heat on the second day if you have kept them in the fridge, but no longer than 20 seconds.
Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi. © 2018 All Rights Reserved.