Undeniable: Hong Kong loves Egg Tarts!

January 21st, 2011 | Posted by Gregoire Michaud in Recipes

These unbelievably simple egg custard pastries, better known in Gwailo slang as ‘dan tat’ are at the heart of the deepest passions…


You walk around Hong Kong or Macao and unavoidably, you’ll cross path with a good hundred places selling Egg Tarts. Everyone has its own favorite and everyone loves to chat about why the crust of that one is better or that other one has a more beautiful egg custard filling – I really like it when people get passionate about food! Hong Kong has become a true melting pot of Egg Tarts like nowhere else in the world, with the famous Egg Custard Tarts, legacy from the ex-British colony; and the acclaimed Pasteis de Nata coming straight from our neighboring ex-Portuguese colony Macao.

Today, Egg Tarts have become a classic dish in local restaurant and a must-have on dim sum menus. More commonly, the Chinese type Egg Tart have a shortcrust dough that varies from shop to shop, some are more crumbly and some are a bit flaky; and an egg filling that is set like a custard, while its Portuguese cousin has a flaky pastry shell and an egg filling that is usually baked in a darker tone with its typical burnt spots. The later has even become one of the best selling item at the fast-food chain KFC (…and in my opinion: it wasn’t hard making anything better than their chicken! :) ) to the point where the chain started selling them in the whole Asia-Pacific region.

I personally find most of the Egg Tarts pretty good, but if I had to choose, I’d go for the Portuguese version, just because of the flaky pastry! I just love eating them piping hot with their crunchy base and smooth custard…

 

The inconvenient truth about traditional Egg Tart is lard.

Purists and snobs alike only swear by Egg Tarts made with pure lard and its load of saturated fat. Oddly enough, I read people claiming lard is unhealthy like to replace it with (hydrogenated) shortening which happens to be worst than lard in terms of saturated fat and adverse effect on health. Go figure!…

Lastly, in the register of controversies, I swear, you can see Egg Tarts in certain shops almost glowing in the dark with ultra bright yellow color. Obviously someone is either color blind or really like funky colors when they add food coloring :)

Easy to make at home and pleasing when served to friends, here is a recipe for Portuguese Egg Tarts you should try:

Ingredients

The dough

The dough is basically a puff pastry made with lard – or you can simply use butter…

  • 480 gm Cake Flour
  • 12 gm Salt
  • 280 ml Water
  • 330 gm Lard (or 400 gm butter)

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients into a rough dough except for the lard.
  2. On a floured table, flatten the dough in a square shape.
  3. Flatten the lard in the middle of the square on an even layer.
  4. Fold the corners to enclose the lard inside the dough and flatten it a little.
  5. Visually divide the dough into three parts and fold it like a wallet. Allow to rest for 3 hours in the fridge and repeat the operation once again.
  6. Again, 3 hours later, roll the piece of dough to about 3 cm thick and fold it like a 3 parts wallet.
  7. Allow resting in the fridge for a few hours before rolling the dough at about 2 mm thick.

Note: Apparently, authentic Egg Tarts have sugar between layers of dough and come out a little bit caramelized (…like when you make Palmier)

Noteworthy: If you don’t want to bother with the dough, get a good puff pastry from your favorite bakery shop!

The egg filling

  • 500 ml Cream
  • 250 ml Milk
  • 175 gm White sugar
  • 4 pcs Egg yolks
  • 1 pc Egg

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients from the egg  filling and fill the tart to 3/4 of the height
  2. Bake in a oven at 230C for about 20 to 30 minutes (depending on how strong is your oven)

PS: I tried to bribe our Dim Sum Chef from our 3 Michelin Stars restaurant Lung King Heen with Macanese egg tarts to get his secret recipe of Chinese Egg Tarts, but not a chance… I won’t give up… I’ll find a way… perhaps I need to trade-in my croissant recipe :)

We can see the difference of texture between Chinese style and Portuguese style Egg Tarts.

 

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  • Mimi Cheung

    The Portugese egg tart is my favourite as well! Also for the same reason…. anything puffy!

  • http://azeliaskitchen.net azélias kitchen

    Yeh..happy to see Pasteis de Nata…as I’ve said I’m crazy about them :)

    • gregoire

      They are kind of addictive when they’re nicely done, aren’t they? ;)

  • http://sucroseobsession.blogspot.com/ pink-kimono

    Wrong recipe completely. Chinese egg tarts aren’t just puff pastry made with lard, and the ones in your picture look like the cheats version made with shortcrust which some bakeries do nowadays as it looks neater and is a lot quicker. A shop in Yuen Long is more famous for fresh dan tat.

    Chinese egg tarts are a combination of “water pastry” and “oil pastry” which are folded together like puff. They are however, two different recipes to make. In comparison to a puff pastry case, it can be about a million layers more which is why whilst I’d cheat and use puff, the pastry doesn’t cut it for authentic reasons. You’ll also find that the egg custard is also different and involves water.

    • gregoire

      Dear pink-kimono,

      I love when people are passionate about food and clearly you are with a blog called “obsession”! :)

      If you happen to actually READ the above recipe, it says PORTUGUESE egg tart and not Chinese. The photo of the smaller size egg tarts are from our Dim-Sum chef at our Lung King Heen restaurant (3 Michelin stars) which didn’t want to share his recipe of course! But I will convey your comments to him.

      There are 100′s of different egg tart recipes out there and in the end it’s a matter of personal taste. Just like your Chocolate and almond marble cake – it looks marvelous, even if there are no real almonds in it – yet, could I say it’s a wrong recipe? no. It’s just a matter of taste :)

      Thank you!

  • http://azeliaskitchen.net azélias kitchen

    Can I just give you my two pence worth here as a Portuguese born in Portugal and having tasted the apparently “Authentic” true Pasteis de Nata which in fact are called Pasteis de Belém, named after the place they are supposedly invented? Though I suspect this was not the only place at the time (19th century) making them!

    The pastry made in Pasteis de Belém is so incredibly thin, I’ve never seen and eaten anything like it that has a thick filling like custard before, it hardly holds the weight of the custard.

    Duncan here has a photo of the Pasteis de Belém but unfortunately you can not tell how thin it is from it…and now I wish I had taken photos when I was there 3yrs ago. Here’s Duncan photos:

    http://www.syrupandtang.com/200811/pasteis-de-nata-portuguese-custard-tarts/

    I was impressed by the flakiness of the pastry…they were also served warm which is not something I’ve had before because they are literally coming out of the oven as people are queuing for them…I think I prefer mine cold.

    The pastry felt like a thin rough puff texture, but I was very unimpressed by the quality of the custard though, thin and didn’t make me want more.

    The best pasteis de nata are here in West London in a humble looking Portuguese coffee shop, their custard is wonderfully rich, I think this reflects the wonderful dairy we have here in UK. The pastry is thicker but still nice, again more of a rough puff texture.

    If you didn’t live so far I would send you some in the post! but then again these should absolutely be eaten on the day they’re made!

    Worst crime committed is to have uncooked pastry in the middle…I’ve had plenty of those!

    As a by the way all over Portugal you’ll see versions of pasteis de nata made with shortcrust…can’t stop people liking what they like!

    • gregoire

      Wow!! :)
      Thank you very much for your deep insight on authentic Portuguese egg tarts. Really interesting to read and learn, as well as to see Duncan’s post.
      I definitely hear you on the crunchiness of the shell – to me, it’s 80% of a good egg tart! The custard is also important, but less difficult to achieve I think. :)

      While I am enjoying eating left over danishes, because the dough impregnates itself with the jam, fruits or cream – I can’t stand cold egg tart – it’s really not making justice to these delicious pastries. Overall, I have to admit that Portuguese egg tart are my favorite over the Chinese version – again, because of the crunchy flaky shell!! :)

      I guess the next thing to be invented is taste through the internet :) LOL I’d love to try the one you’re referring to!!

    • Peter

      i too have had the pasteis de belem right in their shop. delicious treats. i attempted to re-create the item at home once or twice with decent results. i’m down to try gregoire’s posted above.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Peter… I start to consider people who tried the original pasteis de nata from Belem like people who’ve seen “the light” ;) I really wish I could try them too… Maybe later, who knows!
        Happy baking! :)

  • Zapjelly

    As another ‘egg tart obsessed’ I agree with pink-kimono. Unfortunately, younger generation seems to op for the ‘shortcrust’ version. I still love the traditional version though!

  • http://foodofhongkong.blogspot.com HK Epicurus

    Your Portuguese Tarts look amazing!! Can we buy them anywhere? The custard looks more like the Macanese version however. Almost anyone from Macau/HK who visits Portugal can’t stand the much chewier and sweeter custard versions over there – I wonder what real Portuguese think of the Macau versions? I would be very interested in seeing you attempt making a perfect Flaky version of a Hong Kong Egg Tart (not the Shortcrust/Graham Cracker/Cookies shell one like Tai Cheong Bakery’s!). I’ve heard that without the ability to blind bake the pastry first, but needing to keep the egg custard just set, most bakeries and restaurants under bake the pastry a bit. Very hard to get it to perfection! Lovely blog and books : )

    • Anonymous

      @HK Epicurus: Thanks for your kind comments! :-)
      I still have to perfect my skills in making the flaky “water dough” – it’s a simple pastry, but so hard to reach perfection like you said. Once I master the art of making it, I will post it for sure! ;)

    • Henry Chow

      I’ve thought about the question of baking blind custard tarts a great deal. As you mentioned, most bakeries in Hong Kong underbake the pastry so as not to overcook the custard, which invariably results in a semi-baked bottom crust which I absolutely hate lol Does it bother you as well?

      • http://gregoiremichaud.com Gregoire Michaud

        Like with any pastries or bread, under baked goods is a big let down, egg tart, apple tart, breads, scones… everything! :)

        • Henry Chow

          I CANNOT AGREE MORE! I feel that so many tart recipes give insufficient time for baking blind – and you always end up with an undercooked bottom crust. What a crime!

  • Jay

    Hi i was curious as to how many tarts this recipe makes. Thanks!

    • http://www.gregoiremichaud.com gregoire

      More or less 70 tarts depending on the size of the tarts used :)

  • Spencer

    I saw this post by accident, and after reading it, it brought back memories of me eating egg custard tarts when I was little.  I think back then, the crust had lard in it and with the connection of egg yolks having a large amount of cholesterol, that is why I stopped eating it.  I wouldn’t be surprise if I went to an Asian market today and bought an egg custard tart, the crust would still contain lard.

    I am sure you’ll find a way to get the recipe from the Dim Sum chef!

    • http://gregoiremichaud.com Gregoire Michaud

      LOL :) I am the same, everytime I hold an egg tart in my hand I can’t stop thinking of lard and egg yolks clogging my veins…. a few seconds pass… and I eat the tart! :) Can’t stop!
      I’m wondering how it would be with duck fat… but the melting point is probably too low.

      We make a new version of the English custard tart with praline paste mixed in the base. It’s really good with a few chopped caramelized hazelnut on the top – simple, but what a killer! :)

  • Edward

    Am going to try making this, it so nice. looks tasty. How many does this serve per person Gregoire? Thanks. What About those scones , how many person can it serve ?

    • http://gregoiremichaud.com Gregoire Michaud

      The egg tarts is for about 24 pieces of 5cm diameter and the scone, it depends on the size you cut them, it’s about 20 pieces. Enjoy and happy baking!

  • /fæn/

    Although “dan tat” can be found on a lot of chinese restaurant menus, i must say the best are to be found in local bakeries (those found in the wet markets): fresh out of the oven ;)
    The Portuguese tarts are also much sweeter, apart from the flaky pastry – especially those found in Portugal.

    • http://gregoiremichaud.com Gregoire Michaud

      I agree with you! I think there are lots of good egg tarts out there – some for every taste! :)

  • Edward

    HI Gregoire , Which recipe of the Hong Kong Egg tatr recipe featured in which dessert book?

    • http://gregoiremichaud.com Gregoire Michaud

      Hello Edward, in LAYERS I am sharing a recipe for Portuguese egg tart, which is different than the Hong Kong version! :)

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