In many ways, the country of Macao reminds me of San Juan. Settled by the Portuguese hundreds of years ago, their influence has endured even after the country gained independence and a close association with neighboring China. Everything from building styles, road work, and attractions have the colonial feel that made me feel like I was back in the Caribbean for one brief moment. When you realize there are multi-billion dollar casinos next door, however, the feeling fades just a bit. But a quick trip for one of Macao’s famous treats of Pasteis de Nata, or egg tarts, at the famous Margaret’s Cafe immediately brings the feeling back.
If it weren’t for the fact that my hostel, Auguster’s Lodge, was located behind Margaret’s, I probably would have missed it completely. Like most famous shops, it is often tucked away in a side street that is near impossible to find except for those in the know. Not knowing what to expect, I was more than ecstatic to see the near desolate looking side street that Margeret’s is located on. Why was the street desolate? Every seat in the cafe was filled with a local having their morning breakfast.
Unsure of the general procedure I grabbed my spot in line and filed through at a near walking pace, as the cashier took orders and money in a continual exchange of numbers and currency. Everyone is there for the same thing, and rather than saying a specific item, giving a quantity (three in my case) will yield your desired result as another worker will grab the tarts out of a nearby display case and hand them to you in a dizzying speed like something out of the I Love Lucy chocolate factory episode. At 8 Patacas a tart (91 cents US), it is quite a deal.
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The tart itself is surprisingly simplistic comprised of a flaky shell that is filled with cooked egg yolk. What makes the variety of pasteis de nata special is a light drizzling of a special sweet sauce that caramelizes during the baking process. Not entirely a breakfast dish, and not entirely a dessert, the flavors work well with the egg and dough blend and is enough to satisfy almost any taste.
Walking away from Margaret’s produced a similar feeling like those in San Juan at La Bombonera after having the moist and delicious mallorca bread several times, and brought back some amazing memories.