Pastéis de Belém or Pastéis de Nata, what should you try? This is one of the most common questions concern to travelers while visiting Portugal. There is a reason for this historical question, however both are correct.
Back to the 19th Century, near Mosteiro dos Jerónimos there was a sugar cane refinery. The facilities were next to a small general store. In 1820 the liberal revolution end up in a shut down of most of the convents and monasteries in the country, it was the end of the religious orders in Portugal. As an attempt to survive, one person from the monastery offered this pastry sweet to be sold in the shop. They became famous and the location was far away from the Lisbon. However attracted visitors to taste and enjoy the beautiful scenario of those days.
The ancient and secret recipe from the Monastery of Jerónimos is still unknown by locals. There is even a national competition, in which local pastry shops compete to achieve a recipe near to the original ones from Pastéis de Belém.
Why Pastéis de Nata and not Pastéis de Belém?
Pastéis de Belém is a trademark and for this reason it is impossible to use the same name in other coffee shops, pastry shops in the country. This explains the name Pastéis de Nata.
It doesn’t matter if you prefer one or another, we are 100% sure that it should be crunchy in terms of sound when you bite the custard. Pastéis de Nata or Pastéis de Belém should be creamy and taste as sweet as it is.
Another interesting note is that you will find different levels of sweetness in the custards. Depending of the pastry chef that makes them, they will use more or less sugar on the recipe. People around the globe have a different palate. This is related with different food, sweet and traditions of their own country.
You will find this wonderful pastry in any coffee shop or pastry shop in Portugal. In fact, there is also experiences where you will be able to make a Port Wine pairing with it.