Thursday, September 18, 2008
Pasteis de Belem--Lisbon, Portugal
"I just returned from Lisbon and only have one thing to say - Belem Pasteis de Nata"
Thanks to a reader for reminding me of what is the can't miss taste of Lisbon. While there are wonderful wines, tasty sausages, perfect cups of espresso and crispy salt cod fritters that all deserve your attention, you haven't truly experienced Lisbon until you have made it through the winding labyrinth of the cafe and bakery, Pasteis de Belem, in a pretty waterfront neighborhood of Lisbon and had a few fresh warm pastries.
Belem is a lovely area, right near the river Tagus, with views of the 25 de Abril bridge which looks amazingly similar to the Golden Gate bridge. It's green and spacious and filled with elegant architectural wonders; there are museums, monasteries, gardens and an outdoor market to explore. But one bite of the pastry, and all that is forgotten.
Known as Pastel de Belem, Pastel de Nata, (pasteis is plural of pastel) this little egg tart is the original version of the one you might find in a dim sum parlor. The crust is layers of crisp flaky pastry and the custard is eggy and sweet and melts in your mouth. Originally they were made by nuns with the eggs that were given to them as offerings. While the pastries can be found all over, I even had good ones at the airport, they are most famous here, the first place they were sold outside of the convent. The blue and white tiled cafe also serves excellent coffee, and other things to nibble, such as salt cod fritters, but the pastries are what have people lining up and jockeying for tables. Dust them with cinnamon and powdered sugar, check out the production behind a glass window and enjoy a treat loved by tourists and locals alike.
While I finish catching up, feel free to check out a few of my favorite photos from Portugal.