The Hong Kong egg tart and the Macau egg tart are both famous in their own right. Superficially, they are pretty similar, but the devil is in the detail.
There’s nothing like a bit of friendly rivalry, which is exactly what we have in this corner of the world when it comes to the egg tarts of Hong Kong vs the egg tarts of Macau. The origins are somewhat obscured by the mists of time, so we’ll do our best to untangle them for you.
The Brits have been churning out custard tarts since medieval times and are said to have brought them to this corner of the world in the early 1900’s. Hong Kong has cheerfully adopted and adapted them, the result being the egg tarts we eat today. Many bakeries offer them and they are an inexpensive must-try treat if you’re visiting.
Tai Cheong bakeries are probably Hong Kong’s most famous egg tart bakers. They have been purveyors of egg tarts since the 1950’s and Chris Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong was a regular customer back in the day. There are a few of theses bakeries dotted about the city, the one on Lyndhurst Terrace, Central almost always has a queue outside. If you’re visiting the Peak, there is also one inside the Peak Galleria on the second floor.
Macau’s Portuguese egg tarts, sometimes referred to as Macanese egg tarts are the legacy of Lord Stow. Their creator was not actually a Lord. In fact he was called Andrew Stow and Lord Stow was a nickname. Originally he moved to Macau as a pharmacist, who in later years turned his skills to formulating a winning recipe.
Portugal has been the home to the Pastel de Nata since the 18th century. On a visit to Portugal, Andrew Stow was very taken with the traditional Pastel de Nata and returned to Macau determined to recreate these delicious tarts. He didn’t have an exact recipe and experimented until he found a winning formula. Launched in 1989 he gave them away free to begin with and soon these egg tarts caught on like wildfire and have since become a quintessential symbol of Macau.
It turns out that Lord Stow’s recipe is a closely guarded secret, so we can’t tell you exactly what goes into the Macanese egg tarts. Unlike the short crust casing favoured by the Hong Kong egg tarts, Macau’s Portuguese egg tarts are made of puff pastry. The Macanese egg tarts are sweeter than the Hong Kong ones and the tops are carmelised. They use just the egg yolks rather than the whole egg and we don’t think they contain evaporated milk.
Looking at other Portuguese egg tart recipes, we reckon the puff pastry probably includes butter, flour, water and salt. Whereas the filling most likely includes sugar, water, milk, flour and egg yolks.
Honestly, we think they’re both delicious. However, for us, the Hong Kong egg tart wins by a whisker. This is due to a mild personal preference for short crust pastry over flaky pastry and perhaps a little bit of bias because we love Hong Kong.
We’d be delighted to help you take a taste-test to decide which version you prefer. We can easily include a Hong Kong egg tart tasting during one of our walking tours or food tours. And, if you’re heading to Macau, why not book our guide Aubrey to show you around, he can certainly include a stop at Lord Stow’s bakery so that you can try the Macanese version.
In case you didn’t know, Hong Kong and Macau are close neighbours. Both are Special Administrative regions of China and both are worth a visit. Hong Kong is the larger and better known of the two. Formerly it was a British Colony, it’s a true melting pot of east meets west. Famous sights include the Big Buddha and world famous harbour and skyscraper panorama. Additionally there is both a bustling financial district and an abundance of nature and stunning hikes.On the other hand Macau was once a Portuguese colony and to this day there are pockets of beautiful architecture such as the ruins of St Pauls. Macau’s other big draw is its casinos.
Rather than comparing and competing, we think Hong Kong vs Macau are places that complement one another, similar, but different. Find out how to catch a bus from Hong Kong to Macau here.