Macanese dishes combine Portuguese and Chinese flavours, blended with spices from all over the world. Jonathan Phang gives us his top 10 dishes to eat
Macau is one of China’s food hotspots, set on the Pearl River Delta just outside Hong Kong. This former Portuguese trading post is attracting some of the world’s greatest chefs with 16 Michelin-starred restaurants and it’s own unique fusion cuisine that dates back to the 16th century.
Don’t leave Macau without trying...
Lord Stow’s Bakery serves 13,000 egg tarts every day and once tasted, it’s easy to understand why they are so popular. Take a break from Macau’s busy metropolitan hubbub and enjoy a seaside stroll around the peaceful island idyll of Coloane Village. Follow the crowds to the landmark Lord Stow’s Bakery for some of the best pastel de natas on the planet. Crispy light layers of flaky pastry are brimming with a rich creamy egg custard filling, topped off with a slightly bitter caramel crust.
Pork chop buns
This inexpensive and simple comfort food is found all over Macau. A marinated pork chop is fried and served sandwiched between a fresh baguette, crunchy on the outside and pillow-soft on the inside in order to soak up the tasty meat juices. My favourite is from Tai Lei Loi Kei.
Minchi is one of Macau’s national dishes and is comfort food at its best. Despite its simplicity, there are many different varieties. Rarely is a recipe exactly the same but it usually combines a mix of minced beef and pork (or one or the other) fried with onion and garlic, then seasoned with light and dark soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and fresh chilli. Certain recipes include turmeric, curry powder, cinnamon, tomato paste and tamarind paste. Fried diced potato is added at the end of cooking and the Minchi is served over white rice with a fried egg on top. Aida de Jesus, who recently turned 100, serves up authentic Macanese home-style recipes every evening from her canteen style restaurant, Riquexo Macau (The Macau Rickshaw), including Minchi and other local delicacies.
Salt fish cakes
Made from a mixture of salted cod, mashed potato, onion, egg and parsley, which is then moulded by spoons and fried until golden brown. These delicious croquettes can be served hot or cold, and should be crunchy on the outside and creamily soft on the inside. They are served in every good Portuguese food venue throughout Macau. But where best to eat them? At the restaurant of charismatic chef Antonio Coelho. With its hand-painted tiles and live Fado music, it's truly a Mediterranean experience in the historic heart of Taipa Village — and his Pasteis de Bacalhau are seriously moreish.
Stewed pork with tamarind and shrimp paste
A highly aromatic slow-cooked pork stew steeped in a rich, glossy gravy. The complex blend of flavours is well balanced and tastes a little sweet and sour, slightly fishy and leaves a spicy kick. It is a mouthwatering example of Macanese fusion cooking. Where to get a taste of this rich dish? Former assistant chef at the landmark Hotel Lisboa, Manuela Ferreira opened Litoral restaurant in 1995 to great acclaim and uses recipes handed down by her grandmother.
Arguably Macau’s most iconic dish, said to have been created by chef Americo Angelo in the 1940s after being inspired on a trip to Angola and Mozambique. Essentially it is chicken baked in a rich, textured sauce made from shallots, garlic, peanuts, grated coconut, red pepper, paprika and spices. I've tried several versions and found them all to be pleasing and flavourful. However, my favourite is served at The Educational Restaurant at the IFT (Institute for Tourism Studies) where the chicken is cooked to perfection and holds just the right amount of sauce - neither overpowering nor cloying - and the presentation is punchy and contemporary. The kitchen is run by culinary students under the tutelage of chef David Wong and is the perfect place to experiment with new dishes, without breaking the bank.
The most popular snack in Macau and its most famous export. These cakes/cookies are made from ground almonds, mung bean flour, shortening and sugar. There are several varieties with added ingredients, but they are always round and crumbly. These sweet treats are found on every corner, especially in the tourist areas where few can resist the comforting aroma of baking. Koi Kei is a well-respected chain of bakeries that began as a food cart selling nut brittles and candied ginger. Now with 21 branches in Macau, seven in Hong Kong and one in Singapore (as well as its own factory), a visit to Koi Kei is as much a bucket-list activity in Macau as a visit to the ruins of St Paul’s. Try before you buy (staff are friendly) and the cakes come attractively packaged, making them ideal gifts.
This beef and pork jerky is not to everyone’s taste, but I find it delicious. Unlike its American and Australian counterparts, Macanese jerky is moist, salty, sweet and soft. Its texture and flavour is similar to lap cheong (Chinese sausage), but is sold freshly made and cut into large, flat sheets. Bak kwa is sold at most good bakeries and there are plenty to choose from around central Senado Square, with many places offering free samples to taste.
Steamed dumplings are a staple you will find everywhere in Macau, from street stands to cafes and fine dining restaurants. Those served at the Cantonese Imperial Court restaurant are almost too beautiful to eat; redefined and given a sophisticated twist. The barbecued duck liver and pork skewers and the crispy fried boneless duck, wrapped in a taro crust, are also revelatory.
Tiger prawns cut diagonally along the back, de-veined and pan-fried in their shells along with onion, garlic, chilli, butter and lemon. The quality of the local seafood in Macau is excellent and this simple, tasty dish is not to be missed. A perfect place to enjoy the fruits of the South China Seas is overlooking Hac Sa Beach at Pousada de Coloane.
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