Portugese Tarts In Vancouver

Last summer, when I was in the UK, I was staying with my friend Jeremy about an hour outside of London in Brighton.

I set aside one day to take the train in and explore my favourite places in London; I had lunch at Nopi (an Ottolenghi dream come true), I shopped on Oxford Street, I hit the Tate Modern. You can watch my vlog from that day here.

Later in the day, I had dinner with my friend Shae, who was from Vancouver, but had been living in London for about a year at that point. Shae and her friend had just arrived back in London from a quick trip to Portugal, and they brought back with them a sleeve of Portugese tarts. She gave me two; one for me, one for Jeremy.

Portugese Tarts Vancouver

I ate them both on the train on the way home.

I have no regrets.

(I did buy Jeremy a makeup tart the next day, though).

What is it about Pastel De Nata? If you’ve never had one, a Portugese Tart is ostensibly quite simple: a flaky tart pastry shell, filled with an egg-based custard. But in this case, the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. They’re sweet, and flaky and creamy. They’re served traditionally with a sprinkle of cinnamon, which brings additional warmth to a pastry that is already incredibly comforting.

So, of course as soon as I came home, I made it my business to suss out the best Portugese Tarts in Vancouver. Turns out, they’re hard to find. It’s more likely you’ll find their Asian cousin, the Egg Tart at one of our many Asian bakeries around town. I know I have personally enjoyed the tarts at T&T, and pretty much whenever I go out for dim sum.

As it turns out, the Chinese Dan Tat is really more of a descendant of the Pastel De Nata. By all reports, Europeans introduced the egg-based tart to Hong Kong in the early 1900’s.

Portugese Tart vs Egg Tart

Portugese vs Egg Tarts

So, what’s the difference? First off, the crust of a Portugese Tart is more akin to a croissant than a pie crust. The Chinese version has two varieties of crust: one more like a pie crust, and the other more like a shortbread cookie. In addition, the Portugese version is sweeter, more vanilla-y, and the Chinese version tastes eggier. The Portugese version is also puffier, and will have dark caramelized spots on the top, which you would never see on the Chinese Egg tart. That’s the best way to tell the two apart.

Okay! Let’s get to the good stuff. If you want to partake in one of these goodies for yourself, where can you get your mitts on Portugese Tarts in Vancouver?

Michele Cake Shop, 6033 West Blvd

Michele Bakery Portugese Tart

This one is kinda two-for-one, because they sell Pastel De Nata and egg tarts side-by-side, so this is really the best place to try them both and compare.

Fortuna Bakery Ltd, 4240 Hastings St

Fortuna Bakery Portugese Tart

Tucked away way up in Burnaby Heights, Fortuna is an old-school Italian/Portugese bakery. They have deli, bread, the whole works. The tarts here will set you back a mere $1.50, but they were my least favourite of all the ones I’ve tried so far.

The Union Market, 810 Union St

The Union Portugese Tart

Look, if you haven’t ever been the Union Market, well, you haven’t lived, my friend. The Union is the gem of Strathcona, part grocery store, part bodega/deli. They sell killer coffee, lots of tasty soups and sandwiches, and yes, some of the best Portugese Tarts in town. Be prepared to make friendly with the neighbourhood cats and dogs which will no doubt be hanging out there.

Natas Canada (seasonally, weekends outside 562 Granville St)

For my money, these guys are making the most authentic Portugese Tart in town. However, they can be a bit hard to track down, as they are an online business most of the time. In the summer, you can find them on weekends peddling tarts outside Urban Grill Sushi. Follow them on Instagram for info.

T&T Portugese TartT&T Supermarket (various locations)

As it turns out, T&T sells both egg tarts and Portugese Tarts, and their Portugese Tarts are pretty fine! They don’t make as many as they do of the egg tarts, though, so be sure to get there early, as they sell out pretty quick.

First Avenue Bakery Portugese TartFirst Avenue Bakery, 2800 E 1st Ave

This place is oooooold school. It looks like it hasn’t changed at all since the ’80’s. It’s not fancy, and in fact, it didn’t seem all that clean, either. It’s in the plaza with a T&T and lots of other small businesses, like ramen shops and the like. They sell both egg tarts and Portugese Tarts. The quality was not amazing. St Germain Porugese Tart

St Germain (various locations)

Samesame. Egg tarts and Portugese Tarts, both.

For me, the clear winners were The Union Market and T&T, simply because they are the best quality, with the easiest access. Natas is the most authentic, if you can get them.

Have I missed any? I know there were a couple of other places that served them, but they seem to have shut down. Let me know in the comments below so I can add them to my list!

 

 

Amaretti Cookies {Vegan}

This is my second cookie recipe this week, both of which feature aquafaba.

When I was doing research for this recipe, I had to go a bit further afield–Commercial Drive to be exact. I hadn’t had amaretti cookies in quite some time. They may not be easy for you to find, either, unless you live in a city with a fairly significant Italian population.

Thank goodness I do.

Vegan Amaretti Cookies

Fratelli is an old-school Italian bakery that’s been on The Drive for decades. I got some cookies to go, then headed next door to Calabria for some more Italian culture in the form of an Americano. I was literally the youngest person in there, and nearly everyone around me was speaking Italian.

There’s a lot of conflicting information about these cookies on the internet. There are, apparently, a few different versions of the cookie; but all of them come from a base of egg whites, sugar and almonds. Some are softer, some are harder, like a biscotti. They’re generally served at the end of the meal, along with coffee and liqueur, specifically Amaretto, which is a bitter digestif.

My version features a splash of Amaretto right in the mix.

Want more Aquafaba recipes? Check out my new cookbook: Aquafabulous!: 100+ Egg-Free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba (Bean Water)

 

This version is a bit crispy on the outside, but chewy on the inside. They’re sweet, but not too sweet, thanks to the slight bitterness of the almonds and the Amaretto and a touch of dark cocoa.

By the way, amaretti are not just a cookie that can be enjoyed on their own. They make a great ingredient in other desserts as well. I’ve often used them in a trifle-like type dessert to add a little texture and crunch.

Amaretti Cookies Vegan

Amaretti Cookies {Vegan}

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup aquafaba
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4-1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp amaretto liqueur
  • icing sugar for rolling

Instructions

  1. Place the aquafaba and the cream of tartar into the bowl of your stand mixer with the wire whisk attachment. Beat on low for 2 minutes, then change the speed to medium. Beat for another two minutes, while adding the sugar in a slow stream. You don’t want it to reach the fluffy meringue stage, you rather want the aquafaba to be at a marshmallow stage–glossy and white, kind of sticky.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the almond meal, cocoa powder and salt.
  3. When the aquafaba has reached the gooey marshmallow stage, remove it from the mixer, and add in the almond extract and the amaretto.
  4. Now fold in the dry almond meal mixture. Once this is all incorporated, begin to add in the flour, 2 tbsp at a time, until the mixture is still wet, but not gooey/sticky. You should be able to scoop up the cookies, and drop them without them sticking excessively to the spoon.
  5. Drop the balls into a bed of powdered sugar and roll them around a little in it. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet and flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass.
  6. Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.
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