Macau (also known as Macao) is a one hour fast ferry ride from Hong Kong and has a delicious reputation as a culinary melting pot – and I totally recommend you plan to spend more than a day melting into it!
In the 1500s Portuguese explorer Jorge Alvarez landed in what was then a Chinese fishing village. This piece of insignificant land suddenly became very significant to Westerners as a trading port between the east and west. Over 500 years of Portuguese heritage and cuisine morphed with Chinese ingredients and culture and this has created a new blend of delicious fare called Macanese food.
Now, however, you can find Portuguese, Chinese and Macanese restaurants – as well as global tastes and Michelin stars – all over the city. Here are my picks for what you should make a beeline for in Macau:
Portuguese egg tarts
Little baked custard tarts in flakey pastry with caramelised (like brulee) tops. These are served warm from bakeries all over the city, but the originator is Lord Stow’s Bakery on Coloane. They are best served warm.
Drunken sauna shrimp
Not a local speciality, more like the unique creation of the Chinese chef at Cafe Nga Tim out on Coloane Island. The shrimp swim in a bowl of white wine, drinking in the alcohol, then are steamed and presented to de-shell and enjoy. The taste is insane!
Aged air-dried prosciutto
Imported from Portugal you’ll find legs of dry-cured prosciutto ham standing on their own special serving platters to be thinly sliced in all the Portuguese and Macanese restaurants. They dry them for up to 24 months in the air. Salty and delicious. You need to start your meal with a few slices of this.
Capela (meaning chapel)
I went to the home of Florita Morais Alves, a Macanese chef of quite some note. She has a passion for ensuring the traditions of Macanese home style cooking don’t die out. (We talked about the cookbook she wants to write!) You’ll be hard pressed to find this in restaurants, but it’s a fancy take on the humble meatloaf, blended with local herbs and spices and covered in strips of bacon. It takes 45 minutes to cook.
Served in most Portuguese restaurants, my favourite example was at Miramar, on the beach at Coloane Island. They were cooked in onions, garlic, chilli and other flavours (probably white wine) then steamed in cream. So so good! I’m tempted to go back to Macau just for these clams – I dream about them!
The best place for this dish is at O’Manuel Cozhina Portuguesa. The smallest Portuguese restaurant in Macau which serves the best salted cod with crushed roasted potatoes you’ll find. What used to be the food of the poor is now the food of the rich! This is in the old part of Taipa.
This simple and sinful dessert is one you can try at home! Just mix whipped cream into condensed milk and leave it to set in the fridge, then serve with “sawdust” on top (grated cookies). I had this at Cafe Litoral, widely regarded as one of the finest Macanese restaurants in the city. It has a great menu of homestyle dishes to try too.