Sunday, November 29, 2009

Philly Foods: Chinese Custard

It seems that in a lot of cultures egg custard appears as some kind of dessert; there's creme brulee, flan, crema Catalana, Vietnamese steamed custard, and of course the egg tart.

These often personal-sized Chinese desserts have a crumbly, flaky, crust with barely a high enough ratio of flour to crisco to stay together. This shell houses a sweet egg custard that can have a thick heavy consistency similar to French custard or a more jell-o like consistency.

The tarts are cooked until they just begin to caramelize, browning on the edges of the shell and custard. When you bite into the tart you get a taste of every flavor it has from less cooked to more, from buttery crust to the bright custard flavor of egg yolks. That sunny flavor is really important to have in the egg tart. Don't settle buying tarts without that taste, because they are really easy to make (if you have an oven, but I'm working on other methods). The only recipe I can vouch for is from the cookbook Every Grain of Rice by Ellen Leong Blonder and Annabel Low, but I'm sure that there are many more out there.

I got the egg tarts in the picture from KC Pastries Inc. in Chinatown. They were 75c each. At about 2 inches across that's not too bad. These were definitely not the best egg tarts I've ever had, but they were still perfectly addicting (ones that were coming home for Thanksgiving may have never made it that far...)

Besides egg tarts KC, as well as many other bakeries, have some variety of a custard stuffed bun. Remember char siu bao? Well, these are the same idea except filled with custard instead of pork. KC's version of this was pretty weird; the custard's taste reminded of eggnog and was lighter than I'm used, too. If you dig eggnog, though, you have a winner. For a really good custard bun (really good being thick, yellow, eggy custard) go back to Mong Kok Station Bakery where the winning char siu bao were.

  • KC Pastries: 109 N. 10th St. in Chinatown. Great cakes, too!
  • Mong Kok Station Bakery: 153 N. 10th St. in Chinatown. Has incredible buns of almost any variety. You want to get there decently early because they do sell out of a lot of stuff. Do NOT buy cakes from Mong Kok. Stick to buns and what is in the glass cases perpendicular to the street only. There is one kind of hidden which faces the street. Nothing sells from there and stuff gets old and spoiled.


  1. Yum! I love egg tarts. They are easy to make at home too, although I've never been able to get the tart shell as perfect-looking as bakeries do.

  2. Palidor, I agree, somehow bakeries have some shell perfectionism magic which I just cannot figure out. Still, they always taste pretty awesome.

  3. This is a must buy for me each time I go to Philly chinatown. They are great.

  4. How can I get the recipe.


  5. i always go to KC's for egg tarts too. i agree that they're not the best i've had either...but wow your photo makes me look heavenly!