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There is a very good reason to come to the mythical district of Belém, and it has nothing to do with its spectacular defence tower or paying a visit to the “Jerónimos” monastery.
The reason lies in the opportunity to try, just like any real citizen of Lisbon, the delicious cake “Pastéis de Belém”, a small cream tart normally served hot, topped with sugar and cinnamon.
This pastry is a real Portuguese speciality, and like any speciality, it keeps its ingredients a secret. Nowadays the pastry and cream that make up the tart are prepared behind closed doors in what is known as the “dosegredo” (secret office). The whole process takes two days.
Facing so much mystery, you may ask yourself about the origins of this delicacy. To answer this it is necessary to go back to the 19th century. In the neighbourhood of Belém there was a sugarcane refinery which did business locally. The liberal revolution of 1820 meant the closure of Lisbon’s monasteries and convents and their members were expelled and employees left jobless.
As a way to survive, some of them started selling these cakes to sailors recently arrived in Belém, which was at that time quite a distance from Lisbon itself and saw visitors coming to the area to see the monastery and tower. In 1837 the pastry shop called “Antiga Confeitaria de Belém” opened and found itself in possession of the secret recipe. Today this renowned establishment still prepares its speciality.
The shop, in the street of “Rúa de Belém”, is nowadays much more than just a pastry shop. It is an institution that serves a wide range of clientele.
Any visit to Belém is not complete without trying one of its renowned cakes. Perfect accompanied by coffee, your palate may even try to solve the secret of its recipe. Enjoy!
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