These custard tarts tell the story of how the Portuguese encircled the globe. These are from a Chinese bakery, but they are also served at dim sum, which is a Hong Kong tradition, and it’s my theory that they came to Hong Kong via Macau, which was at one point a Portuguese colony. You certainly find them in Lisbon and Belem, and they seem more European than Asia, so I’m thinking the transmission went that way.
I have a similar theory about Portuguese sweet bread, which you find in Portuguese neighborhoods in Providence and New Bedford, and also in Hawaii, where I think it’s just called Hawaiian sweet bread. I suspect a whaling connection.
Okay, those are my theories of global circumnavigation and culinary transmission. I probably should have tried to get a grant to write a book, but it seemed faster to publish them here.
So, that’s that.
Except, I will tell you that it was so surprising, first, to find them at dim sum, when they seemed so very European, (and where they seemed so much a thing that M might eat, at 8, when stuffed taro cakes were viewed with suspicion) and then even more surprising to encounter them in Lisbon, (when M was 13, and already loved them) where they seemed very much of a piece with a general enthusiasm for pastry.
The tarts above have now appeared on Telegraph Ave. I sent that picture to M, to make her homesick.