Macau is a veritable melting pot of cultures.
It’s one of those genuine cities on the planet where east truly does meet west. That’s because Macau used to be a Portuguese colony. It was given to the Portuguese by the Chinese, who saw Macau as an ideal logistical colony to enhance the nation’s trade links with the Far East.
Through the last couple of centuries, Portuguese culture has become intertwined with the Macanese way of life. At least until the city was returned to the People’s Republic of China before the turn of the millennium.
Given Macau’s back story, it’s unsurprising that Macanese cuisine has become a beacon for fusion food. You’ll not only find Chinese and Portuguese tastes here but Japanese and uniquely Macanese flavors too.
If you enjoy exploring new and emerging cities, Macau should be at the top of your list.
Macau offers unique cuisine, its entertainment industry and its one-of-a-kind beaches. Aside from its eclectic dining scene, Macau is also famed for its casino industry. In fact, it has overtaken Las Vegas as the number-one gambling destination on the planet. In 2016, Macau’s casino-goers wagered US $28 billion, more than four times that of the US $6.3 billion wagered in Sin City.
If you’re keen to discover some of Macau’s most iconic meals and snacks – some of which will no doubt be on offer in Macau’s dozens of casinos – here is a snapshot of five of the most popular flavors to sample in the world’s most densely populated city.
Chan Kong Kei Roast Duck
If you are someone that adores moist, flavourful roast duck, you’ll adore the melt-in-the-mouth textures of Macau’s Chan Kong Kei duck. Roasted and marinated in a homemade black pepper rub, this helps to create the juiciness and texture that hundreds of locals and tourists alike queue up for daily.
The restaurant at Chan Kong Kei is extremely busy at peak lunch and evening mealtimes, so consider visiting early evening or just before the lunchtime rush.
Pork Chop Buns
For those that enjoy munching on street food snacks whilst exploring their holiday haunts, wait until you get your lips around a hot, fresh pork chop bun. With a soft, warm toasted bun and a lightly spiced, tender pork chop with a crispy exterior, there is a melting pot of textures and flavors that keep locals and visitors coming back again and again.
It’s also great washed down with some fresh clay pot brewed coffee or an iced lemon tea that rivals some of the most popular types of tea if it’s particularly hot and humid outside.
Portuguese Egg Tarts
There are two highly recommended places to sample Macau’s Portuguese egg tarts. Margaret’s Bakery and Lord Stow’s Bakery are the two long-standing outlets that serve these delicious, light tarts and have done so since 1979.
Portuguese egg tarts differ significantly to the Chinese egg tarts you may have already read about or tasted. The latter are finished with sickly-sweet caramelised sugar, whereas Portuguese egg tarts are blow torched quickly for a slightly crispy topping above the rich, creamy custard interior.
The first of two ‘national dishes’ that we’ll feature in this article, Minchi is a household favourite throughout the city of Macau. It is a hearty, homely dish comprising of minced pork or beef, or a blend of the two, as well as small diced potatoes, stir-fried onions and carrots.
All of these delicious ingredients are fused with Worcestershire sauce. Some Macanese restaurants will top their minchi with a fried egg.
Portuguese cuisine is also heavily influenced by African flavors, so it’s unsurprising that African dishes started to weave their way into Macanese cuisine. African Chicken was one of the most popular dishes in the city when it was under Portuguese rule. The chicken thigh meat was marinated in a vibrant peanut, chili and tomato sauce, and served with a side of Portuguese fried rice.
This article merely scratches the surface of the flavors and treats available from Macau’s restaurants and street food outlets.
Notable mentions go to Macau’s almond cookies, their steamed milk pudding and their steaming bowls of curry noodles that locals have been devouring at breakfast for decades.
Macau really is a city like no other and its dining scene has to be seen to be believed.
Photos courtesy of CC0 1.0