pasteis de belem

Conveniently triangulated between the monastery, coach museum and monument, there’s a cafe called Pastéis de Belém that is worth a special stop for its namesake confections. The original recipe was invented by two Catholic sisters in the convent at neighboring Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and called Pastéis de Belém – a version of pasteis de nata, the bite-size custard tarts that are a commonplace treat at every pasteleria in Portugal. Around 1837, clerics from the monastery set up a shop to sell the pastries in order to raise money for the building. The proximity of the shop to the port allowed sailors and tourists to quickly become familiar with the tarts and news quickly spread that there was a new kind of deliciousness coming out of the ovens in Belem. What makes it so good? I can’t tell you; since then the secret recipe has been heavily guarded. You can pick up packages of the tarts in certain markets – or at the airport – but nothing quite compares to sitting in the cafe with a coffee and scarfing them hot out of the oven, sprinkled copiously with powdered sugar.

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