We all know about pasteis de nata, the quintissential Portuguese pastry with its buttery crust and silky filling. It’s the pastry on every must-eat list and every must-wait-in-line-to-eat list (yes I waited in line too). They’re great. But I don’t care about them right now. Right now, I care about the Portuguese sweet that’s got one of the most unique origin stories I’ve ever heard about, AND it’s delicious. I care about the queijada de Sintra.
A long long time ago—the 13th century to be exact—Portugal consisted of kingdoms and kings whose names sounded very Games of Throne-sy. Sintra sat in one of those kingdoms, northwest of Lisbon. People lived and did their thing, but like all kingdoms, ya gotta pay your rent. So some of the good people of Sintra paid based on what the royalty thought was a high-value asset: they paid in queijadas.
So here we are in the Middle Ages, and the government considers queijadas, these small, cheesecake-like desserts, important enough to pass as payment. What could possibly be so special about them?
For starters, they’re made using requeijão, a ricotta-like cow’s milk cheese found only in the Sintra region. That means that you can try as hard as you can, but you’ll never be able to recreate them exactly anywhere else.
The original recipe is also a complete secret. The core filling ingredients—requeijão, sugar, eggs, and cinnamon—don’t change, but the exact ratios to achieve perfection are known only by a few residents who continue to sell it today. It’s hyper-local and hyper-delicious, and the royals of kingdoms past knew this enough to let it count for rent.
Today, there are a few key spots in Sintra that sell queijadas. I recommend trying them at each location, bringing back a few, and seeing if your landlord will accept them as collateral. Can’t hurt to try, right?