From the highly publicised Pastéis de Belém that has over 400 seats in the cafe and a line down the road, to the local corner patisseries that stock their not so publicised versions of Pastel de Nata. It is one humble Portuguese custard tart pastry that brings so much joy! I went crazy for Pastel de Nata in Lisbon.
The original Pastel (Pastéis) de Nata were made long ago, before the 18th century, by Catholic Monks in Santa Maria de Belem in Lisbon. Back then, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-white for starching clothes. Therefore, a lot of left-over egg yolks! Ultimately sweet pastries and cakes were made resulting in a large increase in different pastry recipes across Portugal.
After the Liberal Revolution in 1820 when many convents and monasteries were soon to be closed, the monks started to sell their Pastel de Nata at a nearby sugar refinery to gain some income. Then in 1834 the monastery closed and the Pastel de Nata recipe was sold to the sugar refinery, which then opened Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém. Which, by the way, is still run by the descendents of those that began it to this day.
Belém is a about 20-30 minutes from the centre of Lisbon along the water. A short tram ride is worth the goodness that you receive when you get your hands on a pastel fresh from the oven, sprinkled with cinnamon and icing sugar.
Luckily though, Belém is not the only place where you can get your hands on a Pastel de Nata. As you wander the cobbled streets of Lisbon, winding your way up and down the hills, listen out for someone ringing a bell. That bell is the sign that around the next corner there are Pastel de Nata fresh out of the oven ready for you to devour.