When we drove to New York last month, our route took us through Newark. Newark has a very large Portuguese community, and as a result, has some of the highest per capita availability of Pasteis de Nata (in our estimation). The Ironbound neighborhood, in particular, is a stronghold of Portuguese identity, and is home to dozens of bakeries serving these Portuguese cream tarts. While traveling in and out of Newark, we were able to sample a variety of local bakeries, from the under-the-radar, to the more well-known. As with our previous Pastel de Nata ratings we assessed the pasteis on the texture and consistency of the filling, the flakiness of the crust, the value, and of course, the overall flavor.
Among those pasteis de nata sampled in Newark, the clear winner was Canela (180 Wilson Avenue, Newark, NJ). When we sat down at Canela, they were out of pasteis, and cooked us up a fresh batch from scratch. The name of the bakery means “cinnamon” in Portuguese, and the tarts are given a customary dusting of cinnamon when fresh out of the oven. It is not advisable to eat pasteis de nata piping hot, so we let them cool down a little bit before tasting. Though perhaps a little bit deeper than those we have eaten in Lisbon, the crust was flaky and solid, the cream was smooth and flavorful, and the nata boasted a nicely broiled top. All of the elements added up to more than the sum of their parts, the true test of a successful pastel de nata. These were some superlative pasteis, and we had to struggle in order to not eat all of our pastel haul at once.
On the second time we visited Canela, we chatted with the proprietor who said that he himself once worked at Pasteis de Belem, perhaps the most famous purveyor of pasteis de nata, located just outside of Lisbon. However we found that Canela’s were much better! And the quality was no fluke, Canela’s offering were just as good the second time around. There are other pastries, coffee, and salty snacks (salgadinhos in Portuguese) available at Canela, including coixnhas, however we were so enchanted with the Pasteis de Nata that we didn’t even sample anything else. Canela is cash only so make sure you are prepared in advance, and the pasteis will only set you back $1.75 apiece. Trust us, it will be worth the trip: this was definitely one of the best pasteis de nata we have ever had in America!
We were lucky enough to visit the Queens Night Market when we went to New York this July, our first trip outside of the Midwest since October 2019 (when we last visited New York, incidentally). The 100% outdoors Night Market is held weekly on Saturdays at Flushing Meadows Park, next to the New York Hall of Science (site of both the 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fairs). You can purchase $5 tickets in advance for admission at any time during the night (currently 6 to midnight). The Fair is slated to run until October this year, though it would be wise to check for updates.
Visually, the Queens Night Market looks like your typical outdoor food fair, with several rows of tented booths and signs advertising their wares. However, the type of food on offer was nothing like the average food festival, and we were absolutely floored by the scope and variety. The restaurants and catering companies featured were selected for their international flavors, and dozens of countries were represented on the night we visited, from Belize to Burma. We were most pleased that we got two new countries under our belt in one shot: Sudan and Antigua & Barbuda. Each booth had a short menu of offerings, most ranging from $5 to $10, making it one of the most reasonable eating options in NYC.
The Sudanese booth – Sambuxa NYC – had a truncated menu featuring meat and vegetable sambuxas, lending their name to the restaurant. Sambuxas are the East African cousins of Indian samosas, deep-fried phyllo dough pockets full of savory fillings, brought to Sudan through trans-Indian Ocean migration. These surprisingly-light, tasty morsels came served with two sauces: yogurt and garlic.
The Antiguan & Barbudian booth, La’Maoli had a large variety of dishes representing the small island nation. The codfish fritters, rum bread pudding, and blood sausage all looked enticing, but we settled on the ducuna and saltfish, which was was billed as one of the national dishes of Antigua & Barbuda. Ducuna is made with sweet potato and is something akin to a slightly-sweet Caribbean take on a tamal. Along with the ducuna and saltfish was a generous helping of sauteed greens and veggies, also known as chop-up. The key to this super-flavorful dish was getting each of the components together in one bite, the resulting combo was an explosion of sweet, salty, and savory tastes.
Bangladesh was well-represented at Jhal NYC, where we sampled Jhal Muri, a puffed rice snack mix filled with contrasting salty, tart and spicy flavors. However, our absolute favorite dish of the night was the classic Peruvian ceviche from Don Ceviche. We couldn’t believe the price: a made-to-order, restaurant-sized amount of high-quality ceviche for just $6! This was a delectable dish with tender fish, a citrus-filled tiger’s milk marinade, all topped with the requisite accoutrements of sweet potato, onions, and choclo (XL dried corn kernels).
There were a variety of sweet options at the Night Market as well, which as you know is one of our weaknesses. We loved Moon Man‘s avant-garde Southeast Asian sweets. We sampled an enticingly-green steamed pandan cake that had a light, citrus-forward flavor. Moon Man was also selling jarred versions of some of their wares, including their pandan, ube and original Kaya Jam. Another surprise for us were the hard-to-find-in-the-US pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) from Joey Bat’s Cafe. Even in the inhospitable format of an open-air booth, these tarts were delicious! For those seeking a cooler treats, bubble tea and Filipino Halo-Halo were also on offer.
The best part of the night market was that, in a single place, you could sample dishes from around the world for a shockingly reasonable price. We enjoyed trying old favorites and new-to-us dishes, and our group was happy with the variety, including the ample options for vegans and vegetarians. Granted, some of the more popular booths had lines, which only grew as the night went on, but they moved relatively fast. Towards the end of the night we were getting pretty full, and therefore were not able to sample everything, including the two most popular booths: Treat Yourself Jerk Chicken and Gi Hin Mama Food (Squid & Lamb Skewers).
If you are planning to visit the Queens Night Market, we recommend perusing the list of vendors in advance so you can note which ones will be must-dos. The vendors also appear to change from week to week, so some of my picks may not be there when you visit, though many vendors also have physical locations scattered throughout the city. It is also worth it to check out the line-up of live entertainment, when we were there we enjoyed the all-female Brazilian samba drumming group Batalá. If you won’t be in NYC and are looking for a taste of the Queens Night Market they even have a recipe book featuring some recipes from the Night Market, The World Eats Here. We hope to visit again next year!
You may have noticed that I have been back to posting on ETW more frequently recently. I will admit that things had been busy in the past 6 months with a cross-country move, purchasing a house and starting a new job, and ETW has fallen by the wayside. Just as things were starting to settle down, Coronavirus hit the US, and now it looks like all of our traveling will be curtailed for the foreseeable future. As you may have guessed from this blog, some of our favorite things are traveling, dining out at restaurants, and planning future trips, none which are possible or safe in this current environment. Thank goodness for the internet, where there is a wealth of information, videos, etc., which allow you travel virtually (and at a safe social distance!). So, at least a few times a week I will be highlighting some of my favorite videos, recipes, and other resources in a new series, “ETW Armchair Travel” so we can all be armchair travelers for a while.
Our first ETW Armchair Travel link comes directly from my sister, and is a mesmerizing video of Portuguese Custard Tarts – Pasteis de Nata – being prepared at Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal, which we visited several times when we lived in Lisbon. We must admit that Belém does not have our favorite pastel de nata, but you can’t argue with their scope of production or longevity! Hope you enjoy the video, and stay safe inside!
So ETW world HQ has been moved to Portugal for two more months, our second extended visit in the past year. The first time around, while we enjoyed the food, we were not blown away by Portuguese cuisine. However, we vowed to make our second visit more of a culinary success. In the first week alone, we have improved our food fortunes immensely by simply doing one thing: focusing on the pastries! Portugal is known for its pastries, many of which are found in elegant historical pastelarias or confeitarias. It all seems so simple in retrospect – the Portuguese are renowned for their varied pastries, cookies and cakes, many of which are impossibly rich and laden with eggs, butter and sugar – so why not focus on them? While I have written about Pasteis de Nata, the most iconic Portuguese pastry, Portugal has so much more to offer in the way of sweet treats. Since I (L) have recently finished my PhD, I am using these next two months as some much needed relaxation time. However, I can’t quite give up my researching ways, so I will be dedicating my research skills to Portuguese pastries. I call this new project my “Post-Doc in Portuguese Pastries,” and I promise I will leave no stone un-turned in my quest for the tastiest, most classic, most beautiful and iconic Portuguese desserts.
Pastries and Cookies at Confeitaria Nacional, Lisbon
We’re two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.
To contact us for partnerships or just to say hi, email us at eating the world (at) gmail.com
Eating The World · We're two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.