Pastel de Nata… the Portuguese legacy in Asia
If you were Portuguese you’d know I was talking about egg custard tarts typical of Portugal. But not only. They’re also typical of southern China, particularly Macau and because of the Chinese influence you also find them here in Thailand and in Malaysia. So, how did the famous Portuguese pastel de nata end up in these here shores?! This was a result of the first Portuguese traders who settled in southern China who left this tradition behind.
Then there are Fios de Ovos (egg threads)known in Thailand as Foi thong literally meaning golden threads which you find for sale on many stalls around Bangkok. So, not only is this is a typical desert made in Portugal but also in Thailand. In Portugal, my mum always made it at Christmas by pouring egg yolk through a thin funnel into a boiling mixture of water and sugar to make the threads. It’s delicious! And this yummy desert was also left by the Portuguese who were the first western people to reach Thailand (apparently Ayutthaya, the old capital, to be precise) a few hundred years ago.
I always find it interesting how trading a few centuries ago influenced so many countries and the other day I was chatting to this Thai girl who asked me where I was from and straight away she started talking about the Thai deserts that were left behind by the Portuguese. One thing she didn’t know was the reason for our bizarre obsession with making deserts with egg yolks.
Funnily enough, this was a result of the nuns in convents using egg whites to starch their habits to make them stiff. So, with all that egg yolk left over they invented all kinds of deserts usually also involving a lot of sugar and ground almonds. There are supposed to be 100 or so recipes and they’re all named after heavenly things. They also make you VERY fat ;)