Affair of the tart

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 October, 2011, 12:00am


If any snack represented the history of Hong Kong, it would be the daan taat.

The humble egg tart, with its delicate, sunshine-yellow filling, is the perfect fusion of East and West. It's an English custard tart (minus the spice) lightened for Chinese tastes, then baked in flaky or short-crust pastry. I prefer flaky pastry, especially when it's made with the traditional lard instead of shortening, which is the fat of choice for modern bakeries and restaurants. It's getting harder to find flaky pastry egg tarts because short-crust pastry is easier to make.

Variations on the theme now include egg tarts with bird's nest, and fillings that only contain egg white. Portuguese egg tarts are entirely different - they are far richer and eggier. Unlike the Chinese tart, which is baked so the filling and pastry remain pale, the Portuguese pastel de nata is baked so the crust is a deep gold and the surface of the filling is caramelised.

I'm not sure why the egg tarts from Central's Tai Cheong Bakery are so popular - the fact that former governor Chris Patten was a fan isn't much of a recommendation. They're good, but no better than those from many other bakeries. Good dim sum places, such as Victoria City, Fan Tang and Fu Sing, make much better egg tarts- of course, they cost much more.

Egg tarts are at their most delicious when served warm: if they're cold, reheat them for about five minutes in the oven (not the microwave!). As much as I love to make my own pastries, I've never been tempted to try cooking egg tarts: they're so easily available here and I'd rather leave them to the experts.