Cow pat tarts

I first visited Malaysia when I was three years old. I have a lot of memories from that trip [Orangutans! Exotic fruit! My brother pushing me off the top of a bunk bed!] but I don’t recall cow dung piles. Which despite the name doesn’t involve hanging out with livestock in a paddock.

A cow dung pile is a famous pastry originating from Sandakan (which is in the state of Sabah in East Malaysia). Basically it’s a small flattish butter cake with a custard and meringue topping. They’re now increasingly known under the name of UFO tarts which doesn’t seem half as fun. The literal Cantonese name for the tart translates to cow dung piles.

I prefer to call them cow pat tarts as it sounds slightly more appetising and a little less like an veterinarian’s diagnosis.

The baked cow pat tarts

The baked cow pat tarts

Cow pat tarts were first created by an Uncle Fu. However in Sandakan, Mr Chi, a baker of Hainanese background operated an old style coffee shop which was the place everyone flocked to for these distinctive baked goods. It was famous for cow pat tarts, pineapple tarts and red bean filled pastries.

By using some kind of dark arts, my mother has procured the original recipe and I made a batch on Wednesday. Unlike many famous foods, recipes for this are very hard to find online or otherwise. Unfortunately, I have been sworn to secrecy so I can’t pass the exact recipe on. However, I’ll describe the steps and have included some pictures so I’m sure it isn’t that hard to reverse engineer.

Sandakan Cow Pat Tarts (aka UFO tarts)

  1. Make a basic butter cake batter.
  2. Grease some small tart tins about 8-10 cms in diameter.
  3. Dollop a thin layer of batter in the prepared tins and bake in a moderate oven until pale in the middle with a golden brown edge. Cool.
  4. While the cake is cooking, make a basic custard over the stove. It should be quite sweet.
  5. On the cooled cake, spoon the custard into the middle of the tarts, leaving a 2cm+ gap around the edge of the cake.
  6. Whip up egg whites with some sugar until you have firm peaks. Pipe the meringue so it encircles the custard and then pipe a little over the custard area. The meringue shape should look like a teeny cow pat.
  7. Return to the oven until slightly browned and the meringue is marshmallow-y.
  8. Best served the same day and eaten slightly warm.
Butter cake bases

Butter cake bases

Now with custard topping

Now with custard topping

Piped with meringue and ready for the oven!

Piped with meringue and ready for the oven!

They turned out so cute and apparently they taste like the real thing. Looks like I’ll have to make another trip to Sandakan to see for myself.

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