Caramel Egg Custard Tart, a twist on the classic Chinese dim sum treat

by Irvin on January 26, 2012 · 11 comments

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This past Monday was Chinese New Year, and I had every intention of posting something “Chinese-y” in celebration. However, I did not expect my ridiculous cough that I got from around the time of the Western New Year to have persisted until the other new year – the Chinese New Year. Obviously I didn’t have a chance to perfect what I was trying to make, so I ended up posting about my caramel apple snickerdoodles, but that’s okay, as those cookies are awesome, and I got to post some fun pictures along the way. So consider this post, for the Chinese New Year, a late new year celebration for you all. And what better way to celebrate the year of the dragon than the egg custard tart. Take a look at my version: the Caramel Egg Custard Tart, a twist on the classic Chinese dim sum treat.

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Caramel Egg Custard Tarts

The traditional Chinese egg custard tart is something that you see in dim sum restaurants, one of the few “desserts” that you can get after a meal of steamed dumplings and fried turnip cakes. Personally, I was never a fan of the egg tart, as most of the time they are soggy and flavorless. Then again, I grew up in St. Louis, which isn’t really known for their dim sum restaurants (at least not back then, I think things have gotten a little bit better since).

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Happy (late) Chinese New Year folks!

In truth, I rarely make traditional Chinese food at home. I grew up in the Midwest, more fascinated with my friends cookies and fluffy box cakes than my mom’s red bean paste buns and pineapple cakes. But this has changed a bit lately. My parent’s visited San Francisco for a month and I asked my mom to show me how to make some of the more traditional foods that we ate at home. No one I know makes steamed pork buns like my mom does, and I am hard pressed to find anyone out there that makes sticky rice wrapped in lotus leafs like my mom’s. I guess that old adage of “nothing beats mom” is true. Sadly, we never did have a chance for her to show me how to make any of her specialties, but it did get me thinking about the food I grew up with and my Chinese heritage, and there’ll always be time for it when they move out here to San Francisco (which they keep on saying they are going to do soon).

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Hanging out with my mom and dad for a month was awesome.

Of course, Chinese egg tarts aren’t something that my mom ever made at home. Egg tarts are more of a Cantonese dim sum thing and (honestly) I always found them more on the bland side (remember – from St. Louis). However, when I moved to San Francisco I found the Chinese egg tarts here can be sublime, with a flaky crust and a soft egg custard, reminiscent of a flan. In fact, it was a variation of a flan, the crème caramel, that inspired me to make my version of the egg tart with the addition of caramel. I’m a fan of caramel and though the burnt sugar probably is too sweet for a traditional Chinese dessert, I think it’s perfect for Chinese New Year here in San Francisco. Think of it as one foot in the past, and one foot in the future. No matter what happens in 2012, whether it ends up the luckiest year of my life, or the end of the world as we all know it, I’m pretty darn happy to be here right here and now, enjoying my own version of the egg tart. Happy (late) Chinese New Year guys.

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The year of the dragon. I expect epic things to happen this year. Once I'm over this darn cough.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Belinda @zomppa January 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I love these! I love egg tarts…never tried it, but loving this caramel twist.

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Deanna B January 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Those are so cute! And they sound delicious. I think I actually have everything I need to make them on hand.

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Stephanie January 27, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Oh man, Irvin, I hope your mom makes more guest appearances on your blog. Pineapple cake? Steamed pork buns? Hell f**king yes.

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Sabrina Modelle January 27, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Oh my goodness. I think this might be my favorite dessert you’ve ever posted. And, since Lunar New Year technically lasts 7 days, I still have time to make it before it’s over! I love both créme caramel and Chinese egg tarts more than a girl should, so… yay, Happy New Year. Kung Hei Fat Choi.

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Brian @ A Thought For Food January 29, 2012 at 7:05 am

My goodness! Your parents are adorable! So so cute!

And these little custard tarts look incredible. You never stop amazing me.

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sippitysup January 29, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I have always seen those tarts on dim sum cars and wondered if there were any Chinese authenticity to them. I guess the answers is yes… and no. But in any case, good pastry us good pastry… yes! GREG

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Jonathan January 29, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Egg custard tarts used to be one of my guilty pleasures when I was younger. From weekly trips across the river to Chinatown in Canada to working at a Chinese bakery in college, these have always had a special place in my heart.

That is so wonderful that you had an opportunity to spend so much time with your parents. A beautiful reminder of what really matters in life. :)

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online pizza January 30, 2012 at 9:05 pm

yum, I am coming over haha

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merri March 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm

mmm i love egg tarts..and dim sum… mmm…

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Arlene T. December 10, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Irvin, under Step 6 the sentence got cut off “leaving about an . “

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Irvin December 11, 2012 at 12:56 am

Thanks for pointing that out Arlene. I’ve updated the recipe. Sorry about that!

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