When in Macao, Eat as the Macanese eat: Local Macanese food you must try in Macao
Just like the city of Macao, Macanese cuisine is a fusion of two worlds. 400 years ago, when Portuguese sailors landed in Macao, their wives tried replicating European dishes using Southeast Asian and Chinese spices. That’s how the distinctive, flavourful Macanese cuisine was born.
It is a fascinating blend of Chinese and Portuguese ingredients and cooking techniques with strong influences from the kitchens of Europe, Latin America, Africa and even India.
So if you’re a foodie or love culinary adventures while travelling, here are some local Macanese dishes you must try in order to get a real taste of Macao, while visiting this amazing city.
Pork Chop Bun
A staple snack in Macao, the Pork Chop Bun consists of a massive, succulent pork chop sandwiched between two tender, crispy loaves of Macanese bread. The pork chop is marinated in Portuguese spices and oils and grilled to perfection, and its saltiness perfectly complements the sweetness of the bread. You won’t need any sauce with this sandwich because the moisture of the pork chop alone makes this sandwich mouth-wateringly juicy.
You can pick a Pork Chop Bun in Café Tai Lei Loi Kei in Taipa Village or the original shop, Sun Ying Kei on Rua do Cunha or Sei Kee Café.
Portuguese Egg Tarts
If you’re a pastry lover, then your pilgrimage is incomplete without having these sunny egg tarts when you visit Macao. These are based on the Portuguese pastéis de nata, which were made creamier by an English industrial pharmacist named Stow. Macao Po egg tarts are light flaky shells filled with rich, smooth egg custard topped with caramel.
Apart from Lord Stow’s bakery in Coloane Village, you can pick a box of these egg tarts even in Margaret’s Café e Nata near Senado Square or the popular Koi Kei bakery chain in Macao.
Shrimp Roe Noodles
A regional specialty, Shrimp Roe Noodles are thin, boiled noodles sprinkled generously with dried shrimp eggs (roe) and lard oil. This is a plain chewy dish with a dash of sweetness from the soy sauce. What makes the noodles real chewy is the process of kneading the noodle dough with a bamboo stick.
You can try this at the Loja Sopa De Fita Cheong Kei restaurant or Lou Kei, a Michelin guide restaurant.
Also known as Sawdust pudding or Macao pudding, this is a Portuguese sweet treat, incredibly popular in Macao. It consists of finely crushed tea cookies layered with velvety whipped cream and condensed milk. Served chilled, this simple dessert is elegant and sublime. You can find this in numerous bakeries and on the menu of most Portuguese-style restaurants all over Macao.
Called Galinha à Africana, this is a variant of galinha com piri-piri, a popular dish in South Africa.
African Chicken was created in Macao by a chef named Americo Angelo using spices he bought from a trip to Portuguese colonies in Africa. The story goes that he died without revealing the real recipe.
African Chicken is, in essence, chicken curry – chicken cooked in a rich, spicy, piri-piri-like sauce made of garlic, shallots, wine, sweet paprika, tomato along with some Asian ingredients like coconut milk or peanuts. A true symbol of Macanese multi-cultural identity, African Chicken is a must-have on your next trip to Macao.
Some of the places you can try it out at are Restaurante Litoral, Henri’s Galley and Riquexo.
Your gastronomical journey through Macao is incomplete without trying Minchi. The name is a twist on the English word ‘mince’, which is the heart of this Macanese cuisine. Minchi is a delightful combination of minced beef or pork (or both), diced potatoes, stir-fried onions topped with Worcestershire sauce. Often served with white, fluffy rice, sometimes, it is crowned with a fried egg.
You can try this natural dish of Macao at Café Esplanada, A Vencedora, La Famiglia, Riquexo or Sab 8 Café.
This is something you’ll carry back home by the box load. The rich flavour of almonds and their low price have made them the king of local specialty in Macao. These light, crunchy cookies are so fragile they will come apart, the moment you put them in your mouth. What’s more, they’re vegan, too! Although some shops do sell a variant with seasoned pork.
You can pick a box of almond cookies from any of the numerous shops lining the streets of Macao, the most famous being Fong Kei in Taipa.
Salted Cod Fritters or Bacalhau Cakes
This finger food is served in many restaurants around Macao, sometimes even as a complimentary side dish.
Bacalhau cakes are finger-licking rolls of salted cod, mashed potato, onions, eggs and parsley fried golden brown. Served hot or cold, you ought to try these crunchy croquettes, creamy on the inside, with a glass of Portuguese wine.
Try them at O Santos in Taipa Village or Fernando’s or any local restaurant around Macao.
Steamed Milk Pudding
Dessert lovers make a note: When in Macao, you ought to try this simple yet indulgent local treat at least once. Whether you like your dessert chilled or piping hot, this milk pudding is for you. You may try the steamed milk with ginger or the double skinned milk pudding with red bean.
The Yee Shun Milk Company that is famous for Steamed Milk Pudding in Macao, originated here and today has branches all over Hong Kong, too. It’s still the best place to go to for this to-die-for pudding.
Also known as Chao-Chao Pele, Tacho is a Macanese variant of a traditional Portuguese stew called Cozido à portuguesa. It is a rare local delicacy often enjoyed by Macanese families during winters/ holidays and can take up to three days to prepare.
This fortifying stew combines cabbage with cuts of ham, pork, Chinese sausages, sometimes even duck, slowly cooked. Now that’s true Macanese soul food! Try it at restaurant Carlos, Litoral Taipa or Noite e Dia in Barra.
So, add all this to your to-do list for your trip to Macao. Recognised as a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO, Macao is fully explored not just in tourist spots and events but also in the unique culinary experiences it offers.
If you have any more suggestions on what you loved eating while in Macao, do share them with us in the comments section.