In the third episode, we feature Pastry Chef Paulo Duarte who runs a Portuguese confectionary shop near the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine and introduce his past and future including how the couple have closely been working together to operate the shop.
I was fascinated by delicious Japanese castella.
I came to know about Japanese castella because my wife Tomoko came to the confectionary shop where I worked. I guess it was about 30 years ago. She was just graduated from the university. She had a much stronger passion for Portuguese sweets than me. She came to Portugal alone to learn about the origin of castella that she encountered in Nagasaki. Can you believe that she came to Portugal by herself? I felt that she was a very courageous person. If I haven't met her, I might not come to Japan.
Later, we were married. We were invited to an event in Nagasaki organized by Embassy of Portugal and AICEP. At the event, I encountered Japanese castella made by Shooken, a long-established castella shop. I was very impressed by its delicious taste. So, I decided to learn about how to make castella at Shooken for a while. Then, I returned to my country with an idea to make delicious Japanese castella in Portugal.
Selling Japanese castella in Portugal
Tomoko and I opened our shop in a suburb of Lisbon, Portugal in 1996. The shop sold Portuguese sweets and Japanese castella.
The recipe and flavor of Pão-de-ló, which is Portuguese castella, vary depending on the area. However, Pão-de-ló is regarded as a traditional confectionary and it is a must-item for baptisms and weddings everywhere. I don't know which Pão-de-ló came to Japan. Pão-de-ló is quite different from Japanese castella that you can get in Japan.
That's why I wanted Portuguese people to know about castella that was handed down from Portugal to Japan and has been evolved in Japanese ways. We moved to our shop in Lisbon in 2003 and sold both Japanese and Portuguese castella. Our castella were loved by many customers.
We came back to Japan and moved to Kyoto.
One day, someone asked me "Are you interested in promoting Portuguese castella in Japan?". As Japan is the home country of Tomoko, I responded "If there's anything I can help with this matter" and accepted this offer. I thought that Kyoto was the best place to open our shop because Kyoto was Tomoko's birthplace and her mother lived there. However, it was difficult to find a property. During that time, I worked at a bakery and Tomoko looked for a property. Finally, we found this property with a connection, which was previously a storage for sake.
Since the property used to be the storage, there was no utility connected here, including water, electricity, and gas. So, we had to start from scratch. However, as my shop in Lisbon was near the church, this location close to the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine made me feel like this is destiny. It was in 2014, five years ago from now.
Bringing Portuguese taste to Japan
As mentioned previously, Pão-de-ló, which is Portuguese castella, is so different from Japanese castella that it is hard to find something in common. For example, Japanese castella is baked in a wooden box. Although Pão-de-ló was definitely the origin of Japanese castella, I felt that Japanese castella was classified as a Japanese confectionary now. I thought that it was important to make Japanese people know about the difference between them first.
On the other hand, Japanese ingredients are excellent in quality. Since I can get high-quality flour and eggs, I can reproduce the exactly same Portuguese taste here.
I purchased furniture and utensils from Portugal as many as possible. I wanted my customers to enjoy sweets in an authentic Portuguese atmosphere. I tell my customers about the details of Pão-de-ló, the origin of Japanese castella, including how it looks like, how many types it has, and how to eat it. I believe that this is our mission. We always say "Obrigado (thank you)" every time when the customer leaves the shop.
Our shop offers three types of Pão-de-ló.
As mentioned previously, Pão-de-ló varies depending on the area in Portugal. Pão-de-ló made in the north is baked thoroughly. On the other hand, the further south you go, the softer it becomes like half-cooked. Its texture is similar to pudding and mousse. While the former well-baked one is often eaten with cheese, the latter soft one is eaten with a spoon. Don't you think that how well bean paste is cooked, or the hardness of noodles varies depending on the area in Japan too? Perhaps, they change depending on the climate and customs of the area.
As our shop offers three types of Pão-de-ló, you can enjoy different flavor and texture of each Pão-de-ló. One is from Minho province that is soft and springy and is baked in a large clay mold. Another is from Beira Litoral province that is creamy and rich and is baked in a small clay mold. Another is from Extremadura that has a fizzy texture and is baked in a pot or a metal mold.
This photo image is "Culture comparison experience plate" 700 yen (tax-included) that you can have at our shop. The plate includes three different Portuguese castella and Japanese castella. You can compare differences between them by having this plate.
Our wish is to establish the base of Portuguese confectionary in Japan. I can say that our shop is the first base. I hope that Portuguese confectionary will become popular in Japan 50 or 100 years later.
I hope to return to Portugal someday to promote Japanese castella
Another wish is to go back to Portugal and to make a cooking school for teaching Japanese confectionary including castella. I hope to serve as a bridge between Japan and Portugal and promote exchanges between the two.
I don't think that living in Kyoto is difficult at all. I actually think that Portuguese people are less kind to people from other areas than Kyoto people. However, people are willing to help those who are passionate about something or are working hard to achieve something, not only in Kyoto but also in other countries. Therefore, I haven't had a hard time in Kyoto. My life will be completed if I think I become successful. So, I think that no matter how old I get, I should keep challenging myself.
Do you know the word "Shibaitaroka (I'll kick your ass)!"in the Kansas dialect? This word has several types of tones. For example, you can use it either in a friendly manner like a joke, or in a serious manner when you get angry. However, people always smile no matter how you use this word. Although the word includes strictness, it makes people smile. I got to know this subtle different meanings over communication after I came to Kyoto. If you can understand nuances like this, you can survive anywhere in the world!
*Plsease note that the prices listed in this article were when we made the interview. （They might be subject to change. ）
■ Castella do Paulo
898 Bakuro-cho, Onmaedori Imakoujiagaru, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto
Opening hours: Shop 9:30-18:00 and Café 9:30-17:00
Closed on Wednesdays and the third Thursday of each month