With pancake pans topped with egg cream, Portuguese pancakes in Macau are as symbolic of Chinese lands as casinos. But ironically, they also have British ancestry.
Admittedly, the most popular dessert from the former Portuguese trading post, which in 1997 came under the supervision of Beijing, is inspired by a no less famous pastry, the typical pâces de nata dish of Portuguese gastronomy.
But the appetite for these Lisbon-style pancakes spread across China and part of Asia thanks to a Brit.
Thirty years ago, Andrew Stowe, a pharmacist, opened Lord Stowe’s Bakery in Coloane Village, Macau.
says Eileen Stowe, Andrew’s sister, who now runs the business.
Andrew Stow did not have an original pastis de nata recipe, so he experimented with British custard, a heavier egg custard, following a family recipe, and added Portuguese pastry-making techniques.
If some of his Portuguese friends had been careful, the Chinese in this region of southern China had been invaded. Thanks to the British, Cantonese cuisine had its own version of an egg tart, made from shortcrust pastry.
“To distinguish it from +dan tarte+ (egg tart in Cantonese), they called it +bo tarte+, or +Portuguese +egg tart+,” Ms. Stowe continues.
This flaky, richer version of the pastry was a huge hit. “It was what growing up was like before online likes. It was word of mouth,” says Stu, who took over the business when her brother died in 2006.
The company now produces 21,000 pies in three bakeries in Macau and has two franchises in Japan and Manila.
Within three decades, a large number of competing firms have entered the markets in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.
One such contestant, Margaret Wong, opened up. But she sold the recipe to the KFC chain, which today distributes Portuguese pancakes throughout China.