Pastéis de Belém (or Nata) – a sweet case of custard perfection (but not too sweet).
Pastéis de Nata were first made by monks in 18th century Belém at the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos – they used yolks left over after egg whites had been used for starching clothes.
In 1820, the Liberal Revolution threatened the future of the monastery (along with all other convents and monasteries). The monks, needing money, began to sell their sweet pastries in the shop of a neighbouring sugar cane refinery. When the monastery dissolved in 1834, the refinery bought the recipe, and established the Fabrica de Pastéis de Belém in 1837.
The recipe is top secret – known only by three chefs at any one time. 16,000 tarts are hand made each day, and are sold at a price of 1,1 euros each (together with sachets of icing sugar and cinnamon for dusting, each to his or her taste).
Top tip is to arrive at the shop early, or be happy to join the queues. Fabrica de Pastéis de Belém is famous for producing the very best Pastéis de Nata, and tourists flock to its shop. Even if you don’t like doing the typical tourist thing, you won’t be disappointed.