Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The 50 Most Delicious Foods and a Recipe for One of Them from Cleo Coyle


~ George Bernard Shaw

A fitting quote for this week, given the one-two punch of Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day. Add the global Lunar New Year celebrations for the Year of the Black Snake and we have a foodie trifecta. 

Every culture has its favorite foods, of course, and a few years ago, members of the travel staff at CNN issued their own picks. The list of "The World's 50 Most Delicious Foods" is highly subjective and plenty of people disagreed with it. If you haven’t seen it, scroll to the end of this postand feel free to leave a comment on dishes you think should be on there.

A choice I absolutely agree with is the Hong Kong-style egg custard tart, which clocked in at #16, and if you've ever sampled one, then you know why. Creamy, eggy custard combines with flaky, buttery pastry to create a delightful combination of mouth-watering flavor and contrasting textures.

In Hong Kong—and New York’s Chinatown—the tarts are served warm, although they’re just as delightful at room temperature or chilled. (This I know from noshing a few for breakfast, straight from the fridge.) 

Watch a Hong Kong baker make
these tarts in the video below...

Cleo Coyle, trading hearts
for tarts this weeks,
is author of The
Coffeehouse Mysteries

Hong Kong-Style 
Egg Custard Tarts

from Cleo Coyle's 
A Brew to a Kill

You've heard of pub crawls? Well, to research this recipe, along with a few scenes that took place in our recent culinary mystery, A Brew to a Kill, my husband and I did an egg tart crawl to several bake shops in New York's Chinatown. 

In the acknowledgments of the book, you'll find the names of a few of those bakeries along with other fun, foodie destinations to try on your next trip to New York City.

To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.

The recipe below was also printed in the back of A Brew to a Kill, along with many more. Enjoy!

Makes 12 tarts 

4 large eggs 
4 large egg yolks 
2/3 cup whole milk 
2/3 cup white granulated sugar 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

Directions: Gently whisk together ingredients. Run the mixture through a sieve. Pour into 12 pre-made tart shells or see my recipe below to make your own. Bake about 25 minutes in an oven preheated to 325° F. Centers should resemble creamy custard and not be rubbery. Tarts are done when an inserted toothpick (like a good alibi) stands up on its own. These tarts are traditionally served warm but are just as delicious at room temperature or chilled. To store, wrap loosely in wax paper or plastic and place in refrigerator. 

Tart Crusts 

Makes 12 small tart shells or 1 large tart crust 

1¼ cup all-purpose flour 
½ teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoon granulated sugar 
6 tablespoons butter (chilled) 
¼ cup vegetable shortening 
2–3 tablespoons hot water

Directions: Sift the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and add in the shortening. Using the tips of your fingers, work the fats into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the hot water and continue working and kneading until it comes together into a smooth dough. Pat the dough into a large ball, flatten the ball into a disc, and wrap the disc in plastic or wax paper. Refrigerate for thirty minutes. Dust a surface with flour and roll flat. Stamp out circles and press into tart molds or (for more rustic tarts) use muffin pan tins. Bake as directed in the above recipe.

A few photos from our
Chinatown egg tart crawl...

If you see an NYPD cruiser in front of a restaurant, chances are
the food is good, and the egg custard tarts were excellent
at Golden Manna Bakery at 16 Bowery Street. Highly recommended!
No egg tarts on the menu, but you've
gotta dig a pagoda with golden arches.

Happy Chinese New Year!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes.  

To learn more...

Friend me on facebook here
Follow me on twitter here.
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

View the Coffeehouse
Mystery book trailer
by clicking here.

The World's 50
Most  Delicious Foods 

...as chosen by staff members of CNN
1. Massaman curry, Thailand, 2. Neapolitan pizza, Italy,
3. Chocolate, Mexico, 4. Sushi, Japan,
5. Peking duck, China, 6. Hamburger, Germany,
7. Penang assam laksa, Malaysia, 8. Tom yum goong, Thailand,
9. Ice cream, United States, 10. Chicken muamba, Gabon,
11. Rendang, Indonesia, 12. Shepherd’s pie, Britain,
13. Corn on the cob, global, 14. Donuts, USA,
15. Kalua pig, USA, 16. Egg tart, Hong Kong,
17. Lobster, global, 18. Kebab, Iran,
19. Nam tok moo, Thailand, 20. Arepas, Venezuela,
21. Croissant, France, 22. Brownie and vanilla ice cream, glob
23. Lasagna, Italy, 24. Champ, Ireland,  
25. Butter garlic crab, India, 26. Fajitas, Mexico, 
27. Montreal-style smoked meat, Canada 28. Pho, Vietnam, 29. Ohmi-gyu beef steak, Japan, 30. Goi cuon (summer roll), Vietnam 31. Parma ham, Italy 32. Ankimo, Japan 
33. Fish 'n’ chips, Britain, 34. Maple syrup, Canada,
35. Chili crab, Singapore, 36. Texas barbecue pork, United States,
37. Chicken parm, Australia, 38. French toast, Hong Kong,
39. Ketchup, United States, 40. Marzipan, Germany,
41. Stinky tofu, Southeast Asia, 42. Buttered toast with Marmite, Britain,
43. Tacos, Mexico, 44. Poutine, Canada,
45. Chicken rice, Singapore, 46. Som tam, Thailand,
47. Seafood paella, Spain, 48. Potato chips, United States,
49. Masala dosa, India, 50. Buttered popcorn, United States

Are your favorites listed?
What would you add?


  1. I can understand Maple syrup but Ketchup?

    1. I know, that gave me pause, too! On the other hand, ketchup originated in 17th Century China, and is now used on a global scale (not just on fries but in cooking, etc). I think that's why CNN listed it.

      I do wonder why they left off French fries. Of course, they did list potato chips and fish 'n' chips...but Belgian fries or French fries or pomme frittes or whatever you want to call those thin strips of potatoes fried crispy and served with dipping sauces...they're their own amazingly delicious thing, no?

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. Okay, Cleo, you've convinced me to try this recipe. The only egg tarts I ever had were tasteless, dry, stale things that left me only with the determination never to put THAT in my mouth again. But seeing them on the list with - even ahead of! - some of my favorite foods encourages me to think my single experience with them was a nasty aberration.

    And look at all those foods we haven't tried yet!

    1. Greetings, Laine, and thx for dropping in. LOL on your history with this dish. I *think* I can guess why the tarts you tasted weren't too good; the person who made them might have baked them too long. (If it's any help...) I've found the two issues with getting eggy tarts right are:

      (1) The custard. It should be cooked until set but not rubbery. Creamy and silky smooth is what you're after (hence the toothpick test in the recipe). The other tricky aspect is...

      (2) The crust. As with all crusts, you want a tender, flaky buttery texture, not one that's as tough, chewy, and flavorless as construction insulation. I think the trickiest part to making tart and pie crusts is the step where you add the liquid. Too much liquid and your crust is dust. It will be tough and chewy. And the amount of liquid can change depending on your climate or weather so you have to trust your judgment on the feel of it, as opposed to an exact measurement. Additionally, if you overwork the dough, you'll develop the gluten in the flour and get a yucky result, too. So...

      Use only enough liquid to pull those fat-laced flour crumbs into a dough and don't overwork it. Handle it as little as possible.

      Too much work? No worries. Use FROZEN PUFF PASTRY! It's really the easiest thing to do and foolproof. Just stamp out circles from frozen puff pastry or even pre-made pie crusts (e.g. that reliable Pillsbury red box), tuck them into non-stick muffin tin cups or tart pans and you're set, baby!

      JUST FYI, I did a post a year ago about creamy egg custard, done in more of an American/English way, in a ramekin with nutmeg. Once again, the issue with getting it right is not to overcook it or cook it at too high a temp. If you're interested in seeing that post, just click the link below; there's a takeaway PDF in it, too.

      Click here for Creamy Egg Custard Recipe (American/English style)

      Thanks again for dropping in, Laine, it's always a joy to see you in our Kitchen...

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. No wonder we're fat in the US, famous for ice cream, donuts, barbeque pork, potato chips...yikes! And ketchup?

    Cleo, please call me when going on the next Chinatown crawl--that looks like so much fun! And I love this--gotta use it as one of my epigraphs in WIP:

    "Centers should resemble creamy custard and not be rubbery. Tarts are done when an inserted toothpick (like a good alibi) stands up on its own."

    1. Lucy - Yes, yes, you're on! New York is an excellent place to nosh on street food all day long--and friends like you are what make it fun. Thx for the quotational love, too. <3

      Excellent observation on our US dishes. But then, where is the creme brulee, puff pastry, and boeuf bourguignon? Maybe the French get too much attention. :)

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. Oh, Cleo Bad enough I can't get "proper" coffee, but now I want the tarts, too!
    How wonderful to watch the master chef create the tarts in Hong Kong. There is a person who could probably do it in the dark, strictly by feel.
    In addition to a stroll around NYC eating all the goodies, how can we arrange a sampling of most of that list? Wouldn't that be an amazing series of meals?
    When do you writers find time for all this marvelous food stuff? You must have very full lives!

    1. LOL, Libby, in my day dreams, I run two street tours once a month -- (1) Greenwich Village cafe crawl and (2) Strictly Street Food. No time to do it (yet) but an over-taxed girl can dream. Maybe when I "retire" -- of course, one of my retirement dreams is to become a volunteer national park ranger (fresh air and happy kids, good for the soul).

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

    2. If you ever do those tours, even if only once, let me know and I'll book a flight to NYC

    3. You got it, Libby! I do think it would be loads of fun. Very busy now, but..I never say never. (Okay, I just said it, but you get my drift.)

      ~ Cleo

  5. Cleo, I love the tart-pub crawl. What fun. Wish I could do something like that. (Sigh, GF makes that a little difficult) but I can still make these beauties. Thanks for the recipe.

    And I don't see CHEESE on that list of 50. It's missing. Oh, no! :)

    Say cheese. And happy everything day.

    Avery aka Daryl

    1. Avery - you'll have to run the Cheese Shop Tour. I'm in! :)

      And you're so right, it's happy *everything* week: Lunar New Year; Mardi Gras; Valentine's Day; and I just realized Monday is President's Day. Somewhere in there is an excuse to blow the new diet!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. I love your tip about the police cruiser as a recommendation. LOL! Of course, there's also the possibility that the restaurant serves them for free. ; )

    Hamburger, Germany? Who are they kidding? US hamburgers beat out German ones hands down. I'm in total agreement about Peking Duck and US doughnuts, but the odds of getting great French toast are much better in the US, IMHO!

    And please tell me it's not the year of the *black* snake. We have the meanest, most rotten, black racers -- they'll actually chase you! Ugh!


    1. I'm with you on everything, Krista, including real snakes. Stay clear of those black racers! And that's good to know about the German vs. the USA hamburger. I never had a German burger, but I'm sure you have. We do burgers here in so many ways, too, don't we? In fact, I'd say we're a little too nuts about them. Food writers here have published entire books about making the perfect burger!

      ~ Cleo

  7. wow, how come USA have all the junk food? But ketchup, that's not a food.

    1. LOL, Dru, maybe they should have said French fries with ketchup. :)

  8. Ketchup, my son would love that! It is a must in the glazes I use for meatloaf. My other son has been to Hong Kong, so I passed the recipe along to him. The tarts are so yellow they remind me of lemon curd. The chef was so fun to watch! A master at work. I will try these this weekend. I am a big fan of custard, the creamy egg type. Your recipe is different from mine. I must try it. One trick I use for custard is to blend the eggs in the blender before adding to other ingredients. I use this method for other recipes too, such as French toast. I never liked the egg white my mother would have on her French toast.

    1. Helena - I completely agree on the ketchup for meatloaf glazes, BBQ, and so many other things in the kitchen. Isn't that video fun to watch--a little foodie trip to Hong Kong. Your son must have brought back some great photos and stories. I hope you both enjoy the recipe!

      On the eggs, a good tip is to warm them to room temperature before breaking them and whisking them. What I do is set them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes. This warms them enough that the protein in the eggs loosens up, making them easier to whisk. The blender for this particular recipe might not be the best thing because it will likely whip up the eggs too much. You want to whisk the eggs gently and definitely strain them for the best results—you don't want foam or bubbles in the eggs before baking. If you do use the blender and see lots of foam, allow the eggs to sit and "calm down" in your fridge before filling the crusts and baking and definitely strain them as the recipe directs.

      Thanks for your wonderful comment and for dropping in today Helena, it's always a pleasure to "see" you in our Kitchen!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  9. The danger of reading this list is that I'm now starving!

    1. You are so right, Wendy. When the stomach is empty, the power of foodie suggestion is akin to a Jedi mind trick.

      Carrot sticks, carrot sticks, carrot sticks...nope, still want the doughnuts and Peking duck.

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  10. Spectacular, Cleo! Love the 'crawl', the photos and the recipe.

    Thank you!