Po Tat

A plate of po tat (Portuguese egg tarts)
A plate of po tat (Portuguese egg tarts)

The Chinese egg tart is a dessert popularized by dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong, but the southern Chinese city of Macau also has its own egg tart, complete with a crème brûlée-like glaze – the Portuguese egg tart or "po tat" as it is called in Cantonese. While debates about the po tat’s origins exist, my understanding is that the po tat is Macau’s reiteration of the Portuguese pastel de nata. Considering that Macau is a former Portuguese colony, this origin story is not surprising.  

The competing cultural identities of the po tat have always resonated with me. My father was born and raised in Macau, while my mother grew up in Hong Kong. My parents and I immigrated to the U.S. when I was ten years old. As a young adult, I often felt apprehensive about my identity - What does it mean to embody two distinct types of Chinese heritage, all the while negotiating the delicate balance between my Chinese-ness and my American-ness? 

I often tell others that my favorite Chinese dish is the Portuguese egg tart, which usually results in a look of confusion. Just as the dessert’s name bewilders others, its complex history prompts even further questioning into how a simple dessert can transgress seemingly impermeable geographical and cultural boundaries. My love for po tat comes not only from my inherent sweet tooth, but also from the seemingly contradictory meanings of my identity as Macau-Hong Kong-Chinese-American, as they are embodied in the taste and aroma of this creamy pastry. 

Place(s): Hong Kong,Macau
Year: 2004

– Evelyn Yeung

Relationship:  Im/migrant who arrived as a child Im/migrant who arrived as a child