By Julie Baxter | January 2016
Macao is a gastronomic paradise offering a perfect blend of East-West cuisine. Its unique mix of Portuguese and Asian ingredients and cooking styles has resulted in a melting pot of flavours, bringing world-wide attention to this fascinating destination on the south-east coast of China – and justifiably so. Today, visitors will find an amazingly diverse food scene with pretty Portuguese coffee shops, sizzling Chinese street stalls and award-winning international restaurants run by innovative and talented chefs.
“Macao is famous for its pastelaria, or pastry shops. The delicious pastel de nata, or Portuguese egg custard tart, is Macao’s most famous snack”
Sue Whitehead, Macao Government Tourism Office
When the Portuguese settlers arrived in the 16th century they brought food, not only from their home country, but from all their trading stops en-route to Macao, resulting in a unique Macanese cuisine that combines elements of Portuguese, Indian, South American, Malaysian and African influences with local Chinese traditions.
Unsurprisingly, Macanese dishes are packed full of flavours. Fresh seafood is found on most menus alongside chicken, duck and rabbit dishes while its cultural influences are apparent through its use of spices, such as chilli, turmeric and coconut, which feature heavily in Macanese gastronomy. Dishes are often baked or stewed for long periods of time to allow the flavour of the spices to develop.
Popular Macanese dishes include Galinha à Portuguesa – chicken baked with potatoes, onions, egg and saffron, spiced with turmeric and Tacho – a hearty Portuguese stew with Chinese meats and vegetables.
Authentic Macanese cuisine can be found in restaurants all over Macao, many within easy reach of key historic sites such as the A-Ma Temple and the city centre, as well as on the laid-back islands of Taipa and Coloane.
With a dominant Chinese population, Macao is home to a wide range of Chinese restaurants offering delicious Cantonese cuisine. Visitors can tuck into traditional Cantonese fare at one of the excellent eateries and sample a range of gourmet highlights, such as Peking duck, beggar’s chicken and the Chinese hotpot. Dim sum is a time-honoured afternoon ritual in Macao, which has a reputation for offering some of the best in southern China.
Macao is also home to some of the best Portuguese food outside Portugal, with authentic Portuguese specialities washed down with excellent Portuguese vintages. There are plenty of authentic Portuguese restaurants on the peninsula and Taipa and Coloane islands. Mediterranean highlights such as bacalhau (codfish) feature strongly on the repertoire and can be washed down with excellent Portuguese vintages. A good selection of restaurants is located at Hác-Sá Beach and Coloane Village but the greatest concentration of eateries is found at Taipa Village.
A World of Flavours
It is not just Macanese cuisine that makes Macao a paradise for food lovers. As a destination with a heritage linking Asia and Europe, Macao has a wonderfully varied food scene for which it is renowned throughout the region. Food from around the world is readily available in Macao and visitors will find plenty of excellent restaurants serving Italian, French, American, Brazilian, Japanese, Korean and other cuisines.
Rua do Cunha: Rua do Cunha in Taipa Village – known locally as 'Food Street' – is the perfect place to discover Macao’s diverse food scene. This bustling street is packed with shops selling Macao delicacies like almond cakes, egg rolls, peanut candies, roasted sliced meat and other local specialties as well as restaurants serving Portuguese, Chinese and other dishes, reflecting Macao’s unique multi-cultural heritage.
Fine Dining: Testament to its reputation as one of the region’s greatest food destinations, there are no less than sixteen Michelin-starred restaurants in Macao that rank amongst the best in Asia. These include two prestigious three star restaurants: Robuchon au Dome – offering contemporary French cuisine together with a collection of over 7,000 wines – and The Eight – serving exquisite Cantonese and Huaiyang cuisine and over 50 varieties of dim sum.
Pastry Shops: Macao is famous for its pastelaria, or pastry shops. The Rua de São Paulo, the historic road leading to the Ruins of St. Paul from Macao’s Old City centre, has an abundance of these selling delicious sweet-tasting goods. The acclaimed Koi Kei store sells freshly-cooked almond cakes – a Macanese speciality – along with egg rolls, peanut candy, sesame sweets, and more. The delicious pastel de nata, or Portuguese egg custard tart, is Macao’s most famous snack, available from bakeries all over Macao. The most iconic was launched by an Englishman, Andrew Stow in 1989 and additional outlets of Lord Stow’s Bakery have opened up all over Asia.
Cafés & Teahouses: Chinese teahouses and Portuguese-style cafés are an integral part of Macao’s culture. Here locals get together to relax, exchange news and discuss business while sipping the different brews over Yum Cha. Small street cafés are the perfect place to sip a cup of fragrant Chinese tea or a strong cup of coffee and enjoy delicious pastries and local almond cake, and ready oneself for further exploration of Macao’s many wonders.
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