Joana here - today sharing with you some trivia on one of my all time favourite sweets - pastel de nata!
Once you land in Portugal, you’ll start seeing “pasteis de nata” literally everywhere – hotels will have them for breakfast, coffee shops will have them by the window, even restaurants might have them for dessert. The truth is it will be hard to miss them and even harder not to taste and enjoy them.
But really, what is a “pastel de nata”?
Pastel de Nata is the Portuguese pastry you’ll fall in love with. Its base consists on flaky pastry filled with a soft and creamy custard that’s popped in the oven until golden. The smell alone is A-MAZING and you can eat them warm or cold, with or without a sniff of cinnamon. Each pastel de nata means 3 or 4 bites of pleasure or, in case you’re like me, you can just taste the custard on its own with the coffee spoon and then enjoy that flaky pastry with your espresso.
Now, the secrets:
In Portugal, pastries originally come from convents not kitchens
In Portugal, most of the pastries you find all over the country date back to their invention in convents and monasteries. Pasteis de Belém are no exception as they were created by monks in Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. Back in those days, egg whites were used for starching clothes like the nuns habits’ and to fine wine which meant that the yolks were left out and used to bake pastries and that is why most of Portugal’s pastries are egg based.
A 180 years old recipe
The recipe from Pasteis de Belém, the original "pasteis de nata", was created in 1837 and remains the same ever since with it being passed from generation to generation until today.
A secret (recipe) so big they named the bakery after it
Only six people in the world know the recipe of the original Pasteis de Belém – three bakers and management and they’re all inside “Oficina do Segredo” (aka the Secret Shop), which is the bakery where thousands are made everyday.
The best drink to have them with
The most important part – how do you eat it properly? Well, it’s customary to have a “nata” with and espresso. It’s not mandatory but sure is delicious! If you’re not a fan of the bitter flavor of coffee, you can enjoy them with tea, milk, juice or even a glass of Port wine – it will be delicious as a dessert.
The best way to eat them
Almost everywhere in Portugal, you’ll be served with cinnamon and maybe powdered sugar on the side and you should try it with both. Now, the truth is you should have with and without it, so as a friendly advice - make sure you reserve room for more than one nata during your stay.
Places to Eat in Lisbon
These are some of my favorite places to eat Pasteis de Nata in Lisbon!
The originals. Once you get there, you'll most likely need to get in a huge line to go inside or to grab and go. You'll wonder: "Is it worth it?" Let me tell you right now, yes it is! The pastéis are served warm, so they will be extra crispy and extra creamy and the building alone is a monument filled with Portuguese blue tiles, so eating inside is an experience in itself!
These are my top favorite and every time I'm around I have to eat one right then and there and buy and buy a box of 6 to bring home. One of my favorite things is that you can see the kitchen through the glass and watch every step of the making off.
Aloma is a crowd favorite and has won the Lisbon competition "best pastel de nata" many years in a row, so if you see one, go in and try them out! The great thing about Aloma is that there are many locations to choose from while you're exploring the city.
The store is gorgeous. It reminds us of the old classic Lisbon and invites you to stay and slowly enjoy a pastel de nata and a coffee. It is on Praça dos Restauradores, right in the heart of the city so it will be hard to miss!