We had heard the rumours about the famed custard tarts, or Pastéis de Belém in Belém, Portugal. We had to see if they were true!
Belém is just outside the main centre of Lisbon, maybe half an hour driving at a good time. It is a small yet busy town close to a bridge surprisingly similar to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. On a walking tour of Lisbon, the guide pointed to the bridge in the distance, telling us that one of the architects involved in the project was also involved in the Golden Gate Bridge.
But I digress…
Belém is famous for a few things. There is, of course, Belém Tower. A tower sitting in the water, quite impressive-looking but described to me as a tourist trap.
Or, in Rica’s exact words “The worst tourist attraction in the entire world”. From what I was told, it looks better from the outside, and so it apparently isn’t worth the queue or the price to climb to the top. I followed my friend’s advice and didn’t do it, so couldn’t tell you.
The second thing which Belém is famous for is the gigantic and regal Monastery. The building is so impressive and beautiful, as are the gardens which run along the front of it. I know that you can also do tours of the Monastery, however on this day we were only there for one thing.
Which brings me to the third thing which Belém is famous for…
Pastéis de Belém.
Pastéis de Belém are the traditional, Portuguese custard tarts. Good right?
These are excellent. Pastéis de Belém were actually created in Belém at the shop Pastéis de Belém in 1837. They have, so to speak, the original secret recipe, and many Portuguese say that the rest of the custard tarts from around Portugal are just attempts at copying the original.
We arrived and queued for five minutes, which I have read is quite rare as the queue can often be up to an hour long in the height of summer, when the bakery serves 30,000 Pastéis de Belém per day!
I bought six, knowing in advance that one would definitely not be enough. At €1.10 each, they were definitely a steal.
And when they handed me the box of six…my gosh…it was warm.
They had just come out of the oven.
My friend and I wenr and queued for the bus, clutching our bounty. However as soon as we boarded we opened the box and the scent of freshly baked pastry and custard wafted out.
We sprinkled some cinnamon on top (included in the bag when you buy tarts) and took a bite.
The pastry crackled and the custard was gooey yet set. They were warm and delicious and comforting. Of course we couldn’t just have one!
I tried Pastéis de Belém all over Portugal, and these were by far the best.
I’m just really sorry that I didn’t get more photos…they disappeared too fast!