Lord of the egg tarts
THERE are Portuguese tarts and there are egg tarts. And then there are Lord Stow’s tarts. With flaky pastry and a wobbly custard texture, they are baked at a very high temperature so ‘‘the sugar rises to the top and naturally brulees’’, says Eileen Stow, sister of the late Andrew, an industrial pharmacist who came up with the recipe and was so well-liked that the locals dubbed him Lord.
Try these tarts straight from the oven at the original bakery on Coloane Town Square. More: lordstow.com. terribly Macanese; but it is terribly popular. You’ll find it everywhere: spicy chicken smothered in a sauce that might include (there are many variations) chilli, coconut milk, garlic, paprika, peanut butter and Chinese five-spice powder.
Bandeira’s favourite Macanese dishes include tacho, an adaptation of the Portuguese cozido (a sort of hotpot), and minchi ( minced pork or beef with potatoes). Often the meat is marinated in soy, sometimes in Chinese rice wine.
The best in Macau is to be found at Carlos near MGM, according to Bandeira.
Another favourite is bolo menino (boys’ cake), a flourless concoction crammed with nuts (usually pine nuts and almonds, sometimes walnuts).
To get a handle on Macanese food, start with a visit to the excellent Museu de Macau, built into the old Mount Fortress above the World Heritage-listed Historic Centre, where there’s a rather good still-life display of a Macanese feast.
And if you’re here on a Friday night, check out the Macanese and Portuguese buffet at Bandeira’s Institute for Tourism Studies, where students also turn out a very good afternoon tea (MondayFriday, 2.30pm-7pm), featuring excellent Portuguese tarts.
Restaurante Litoral is perhaps the city’s most famous Macanese eatery (‘‘ owned by a lady of a traditional family’’, as Bandeira puts it). Have the pork with shrimp paste and tamarind, washed down with a jug of white sangria.
This restaurant also does a mean line in desserts. I loved the serradura (Macau sawdust pudding), a real make-do treat made with condensed milk, cream and crushed Marie biscuits, the sort once distributed by the Red Cross, according to my food-savvy guide, Joao Sales.
On Taipa, linked to the mainland by no less than three bridges and a focus for the latest rash of casino development along its Cotai Strip, there’s a compact old village where narrow lanes are lined with Chinese shophouses, tiny temples and quaint Portuguese government buildings.
The pocket-sized Antonio’s, on Rua dos Negociantes, serves some of the best Portuguese cuisine in Macau.
The establishment’s walls are lined with traditional blue tiles and guests sit on high-backed carved chairs, tucking into seafood rice, cod fish cakes, goat’s cheese drizzled with acacia honey and Portuguese olive oil, and a particularly good octopus salad.
Host Antonio Coelho (a master chef of the Chaine des Rotisseurs) is usually on hand, hair slicked back rakishly, whipping up a very soused crepe suzette or opening champagne bottles with his sword.
Across the way he runs a smart little cafe. Might I recommend a soupcon of ginginha, a rather potent home-made cherry liqueur that will put hairs on you chest, if not your head.
Also in old Taipa village is Manuel Cozinha, a very popular little Portuguese eatery where stuccoed walls are lined with football posters and the mandatory leg of pata negra (the Iberian or blackhoofed pig) sits under a cloth.
Manuel’s homespun fare goes well with a bottle or six of the vinho verde ( green wine). And be sure to have the clams with lemon sauce.
Somewhat more posh is the Clube Militar de Macau located in the city’s handsome old military headquarters back on the mainland. It’s all potted palms, twirling ceiling fans and black-and-white photos of the balls of empire.
Shuttered windows look on to a leafy square almost within the shadow of the rather unattractive Grand Lisboa casino, shaped like a mutant lotus.
The Clube Militar’s menu is modern Portuguese and the very good lunch buffet costs less than $20. I settle instead for a generous plate of wild boar ham, aged 36 months, washed down with a flintdry rose.
Bandeira promised the whole Portuguese community of Macau would be here and it looks like he’s right.
It certainly makes a nice change of pace from the bustling casinos. Be sure to give it a whirl. Christine McCabe was a guest of the Macau Government Tourist Office, Cathay Pacific and Banyan Tree Macau.
Eileen Stow with a tray of freshly baked Lord Stow’s tarts