Healthy Eating: Year of the Dragon Hong Kong egg tarts

A Hong Kong egg tart. (Photo by Tim Chin)

It’s the Year of the Dragon and I thought we could celebrate with a simple and delicious classic tart.

Crisp, flaky, and filled with a tender custard, Hong Kong egg tarts are a beloved pastry in Chinese Cantonese cuisine and often served at the end of dim sum.

They remind me of Traditional Portuguese Egg Custard Tarts (Pasteis de Nata) that I enjoyed while traveling in Portugal, but I find that the Hong Kong version is easier to make.

Despite the similarity with Portuguese Egg Tarts, the Hong Kong Egg Tart is a quintessential part of Cantonese cuisine that’s the product of both British and Chinese tastes. Its roots are in the British Custard Tart, made with a creamy filling and a shortcrust dough.

The British introduced the custard tart to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in the 1920s, and over time the Cantonese adapted the tarts to suit their own tastes. Instead of using the expensive imported ingredients the British tarts called for, like butter and custard powder, chefs used lard to make flaky puff pastry and whisked together a filling of eggs, sugar, water and a touch of milk.

This recipe uses butter instead of lard, but if you prefer to use leaf lard for crusts by all means use it.

These treats are perfect for brunch, an afternoon snack or dessert. You can use a muffin tin if you don’t have mini tart pans.

Even though they make this recipe makes 16 small tarts I can assure you that they won’t last long — and if you are tempted you can always share with your neighbors or friends.

San nin faai lok! Happy Lunar New Year!

Hong Kong Style Egg Tarts

Serves: 4 (16 tarts)
Preparation time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes


2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
12 (170 g) tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons (30 ml) cold water

1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (235 ml) hot water
1/2 cup (120 ml) evaporated milk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a bowl, combine the flour and salt.
Add the butter.
Work quickly to break it up roughly with your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized chunks of butter still in the mixture.
Add 2 tablespoons of cold water and bring the dough together with your hands.
Add a little more water, if necessary, a half-teaspoon at a time, make sure you do not exceed 3 teaspoons.
At this point, the dough will be scraggly and dry.
Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 6-by-15-inch rectangle. Work quickly to avoid overworking it.
Fold the top third of the dough down to the center, then the bottom third up and over that.
Give the dough a quarter turn (left or right) and roll out again to a 6-by-15-inch rectangle.
Fold the same way as before, cover, and chill for 1 hour.
While the dough is resting, make the filling.

Dissolve the sugar into the hot water and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
Whisk evaporated milk, eggs, and vanilla together, and then whisk in the sugar water.
Strain through a fine-meshed strainer into a large measuring cup or pitcher.

Making the tarts
Preheat the oven to 375° F convection and position a rack in the lower third of the oven.
Roll out the dough 1/4 inch thick, and using a fluted cookie cutter, cut 4-inch circles, and place dough into 3-inch egg tart tins or muffin pans, leaving about half-inch of dough hanging off the tins.
Take the excess dough, re-roll it, and cut more circles until you have 16.
Evenly fill the tart shells three-quarters full of custard.
Once filled, transfer a sheet pan with the tart shells into the oven.
Immediately reduce the heat to 350°F, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until filling is just set.
Allow the tarts to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

— By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She loves to cook from scratch using produce from the gardens she created and maintains with her husband. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and focused on desserts, pastries and bread. She’s worked for restaurants and caterers in the front and back of the house (kitchen) on both coasts. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. Deborah loves experimenting and developing new recipes. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at


  1. I appreciate all of your articles. Especially about our local restaurants but also interesting recipes.
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