Tai Pan Bakery
Tai Pan Bakery opened the doors to their Chinatown location in 2005. Their first spot, opened in 1990 in Flushing, quickly became the neighborhood’s go-to spot for sweet treats reminiscent of home. Specializing in various Chinese tarts and buns, Tai Pan's pastries are filled with ingredients like red bean, roast pork, taro, cream, salted egg yolk, and more. These are not dense and cloying desserts made to suit American palates. Instead, most of the foods served here are light, fluffy, and mildly sweet. Be sure to try one of the various egg tarts for sale. In addition to the versions common in Mainland China and Macau, Tai Pan offers not-so-traditional flavors you’d be hard-pressed to find in China, like egg white, papaya, and green tea. These tasty hybrids are a testament to the influences of the mingling food cultures of New York City.Jean Nihoul
To fall in love with the Chinese egg custard tart — sweet custard in an open-faced pastry shell — means to fall in love with the Chinese bakery, a staple of the lower Manhattan culinary landscape (but a rarer institution north of Delancey). The tart can be enjoyed warm or cool, and is often consumed with tea, in the mornings when it’s freshly baked. Also known as dan ta (Mandarin), or dan tat (Cantonese) — the egg tart is symbolic of Chinese adaptation of Western cuisine. The dish became popular in Hong Kong in the mid twentieth century — likely influenced by custard tarts from the occupying British and by pasteis de nata from the nearby island of Macao (once colonized by the Portuguese).
But on the mainland, in Guangzhou, egg tarts appeared in department stores even earlier, in the 1920s, perhaps as a product of the previous century’s Opium Wars with the British. In New York, as in China, patrons can expect crusts made with either shortbread (like a pie) or with laminated dough (like a croissant), a hat tip to the Portuguese. The tops should be shiny and unblemished, with a filling that’s more eggy than creamy, which is to say closer to flan than a pot de crème. If the top is spotty and burnished, fear not: You’re likely eating one that pays more homage to the Macanese variety. Expect to spend about a buck on each tart.Ryan Sutton