Portugal’s “secret”: Pastel de Nata
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In February 2018 I landed in Lisbon. It was my first time in continental Portugal and I wanted to see what everyone was so enthusiastic about. My experience wasn’t the best – though it improved a lot by the end of the year, but I want to talk about something else: Pastel de Nata.
I don’t know how or where I heard the first time about pastel de nata (which means cream pastry, basically, in Portuguese). I tried it pretty soon after landing, because it’s everywhere, and I really enjoyed it.
Right after eating a pastel de nata the first time, I remember talking to Cristi, my co-founder at MavenHut, and telling him “You know, they have this great thing called pastel de nata here”. To which he replied: “Yes, it’s awesome. Just be careful, you’ll be really sick if you eat more than 5 at a time!”. 5? FIVE? I could barely eat 2 at a time, since they were so sweet. But five???
Anyway, after this moment I learned that pastel de nata was a “secret” just for me, that a lot of my friends ate it before and, even more surprising, they didn’t need to come to Portugal for that. I found it afterwards in London at Nando’s, in Bucharest somewhere as well. And today I found out why:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the nata’s rise is fueled in part by promotion from the government, which sponsors events like the 2018 Nata Festival in London and funds local businesses.
Here is the entire article, called “The Unlikely Rise of the Pastel de Nata, and Why It’s Suddenly Everywhere“. And, if you, all of a sudden, feel like you want a pastel de nata, don’t tell me. Please, don’t. I have a really good Portuguese “pastelaria” really close. And their pastel de nata is really, really good.
Oh, and if you go to Lisbon, the best pastel de nata I’ve had was at Manteigaria, at TimeOut Market. They also have another place where you can find them, which might be less busy, on the corner of Largo de Camões, in Chiado. A lot of people say that the original pastel de nata, at Pastéis de Belém, is better, but it wasn’t my experience. To each’s own, though :)
Photo source: The illustration on top is Miruna’s.