UFO-Tart or sometimes called “Cowdung” tart (牛屎挞) is a true Sandakan dessert, this tart is made up of a thin cake base and with sweet custard and meringue top. Best eaten with a hot cup of local coffee.

UFO-Tarts are the iconic dessert of Sandakan. This delicacy got its name from the way it looks, which is like a flying saucer from outer space! Some locals would call it the “Cowdung” tart.. Well I’ll leave it to your imagination why.

This tart can be found in most coffee shops and bakeries around Sandakan, but if you’re only stopping by Kota Kinabalu, worry not, there are many shops selling the tarts and they’re just as yummy as the ones in Sandakan.

3 Places in Sabah to try UFO-Tart

  • San Da Gen Kopitiam, Sandakan
  • Mee Ngar (There are branches in Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan)
  • Kedai Roti Gold Crown, Sandakan

Did you know that the creation of the UFO-Tart was actually an accident?

Back in the 1950s, a Hainanese baker in Sandakan named Fu Ah On was on his usual routine of baking tarts to sell but he got distracted and accidentally burnt some of the tarts! Sad that the batch would go to waste, he gave it a try and to his surprise, the burnt tarts tasted even better! He took a leap of faith and introduced these burnt tarts in his shop, everyone loved it and the rest was history.

For those interested to recreate this historic accident turned into iconic dessert, we’ve prepared a recipe you can follow:


Tart Base

60gm Butter

50gm Sugar

50gm Cake flour, sifted amongst 1/2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp Vanilla extract

1 Egg



1 tbsp Sugar

½ tsp Vanilla extract

1 tsp Custard powder

1 tsp Patent flour (high quality, commercial grade white flour)

50gm Milk

1 Egg Yolk only (save egg white for meringue)



1/8 tsp Salt

¼ tsp Cream of tartar (can be replaced with a few drops of vinegar)

2 tbsp Sugar

½ tsp Vanilla extract

1 Egg white



  1. Prepare an all purpose muffin pan (the wider the diameter the better) and preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. For the base of the tart, whip the butter and sugar together until it looks similar to butter cream, then fold in the vanilla extract and flour. Pour mixture into the greased muffin pan (amount depending on how thick you want the base) then bake for fifteen minutes.
  3. For the custard, mix the egg yolk, sugar, custard powder, flour, milk and vanilla extract into a microwave safe bowl and whisk it until combined and smooth. Microwave on high for 30 seconds until custard is thick (you may have to do it twice, it will continue to thicken as it cools), once it’s done cover the bowl with a cling wrap to avoid forming a skin then let it cool.
  4. Now for the meringue, whip up the egg whites until it forms stiff peaks, gradually add in cream of tartar, sugar, salt and vanilla extract until it’s combined.
  5. To assemble the tart, use a spoon and add a generous amount of custard onto the base of the tart, then use a circular tip piping bag and pipe the meringue around or covering the custard entirely (the “cowdung” shape can be used as a reference).
  6. The final step is to grill the assembled tarts in the oven at 180°C until caramelized and voila! Your UFO-tarts are ready to be served.


*If you do not have an all purpose muffin pan on hand, you can try lining and greasing a baking sheet and drop spoonfuls of the base mixture (not too flat as it will spread itself out in the oven) then bake.