A FOODIE'S GUIDE TO MA­CAO

Ma­cao’s her­itage as a for­mer Por­tuguese out­post hasn’t just left it with beau­ti­ful cob­bled streets and in­trigu­ing street names: it’s gifted the place with ex­tra­or­di­nary cui­sine.

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With a myr­iad of cul­tures comes a myr­iad of foods. As Por­tuguese traders came to Ma­cao from their ports in South­east Asia, In­dia, Africa, and Por­tu­gal it­self, they brought with them tastes of home and the spices and fla­vors they found along the way: co­conut milk, turmeric, cloves, and pa­prika. In Ma­cao, these merged with Can­tonese cook­ing to cre­ate a truly fu­sion cui­sine.

And the con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment of Ma­cao has only ac­cel­er­ated its gas­tro­nomic prow­ess, as shown by the num­ber of restau­rants serv­ing up some of the world’s finest Chi­nese and in­ter­na­tional cui­sine. In­deed, in 2017 the city was named as a UNESCO Cre­ative City in the field of gas­tron­omy.

Yet it’s not just the Miche­lin stars that glit­ter in Ma­cao, al­though the com­pact city has them in abun­dance – 27 in to­tal. In fact, it’s hard to have a bad meal in this cross­roads of fla­vors and cul­tures. Here is a quick primer on 16 of Ma­cao’s must-eat dishes.

MACANESE AFRICAN CHICKEN (GALINHA À AFRICANA)

Some might call African chicken Ma­cao’s most em­blem­atic dish – but for all that, it’s a rel­a­tively new in­ven­tion. The story goes that African chicken was cre­ated in the 1940s by ho­tel chef Americo An­gelo, who was in­spired by a visit to a Por­tuguese colony in Africa where he tasted spicy, bar­be­cued piri-piri chicken. He brought it back to Ma­cao and made it his own. At heart, it’s a sim­ple dish of grilled chicken, coated lib­er­ally in a rich, spicy peanut-and-tomato sauce. But the fas­ci­nat­ing thing about this dish is that it tastes a lit­tle dif­fer­ent at ev­ery es­tab­lish­ment in Ma­cao, each of which has its own take on what African chicken should be. Some­times a fra­grant note of co­conut wins out; some­times the acid­ity of the tomato shines through. But no mat­ter where it’s made, it’s en­dur­ingly su­perb.

POR­TUGUESE CHICKEN (GALINHA À PORTUGUESA)

Just as African chicken has never been pre­pared on the shores of Mozam­bique, Por­tuguese chicken has never been sold in the nar­row cob­bled streets of Por­tu­gal. But this sweet, chicken curry cooked in a mild co­conut sauce is a true fu­sion dish, and there are few which bet­ter sum up the city’s mul­ti­cul­tural an­ces­try. It’s redo­lent with spices and co­conut de­rived from the for­mer Por­tuguese colonies of In­dia, all fil­tered through south­ern Chi­nese taste­buds and in­gre­di­ents – and some­times even a touch of chouriço for a truly Por­tuguese fin­ish.

POR­TUGUESE EGG TARTS

If there’s a sin­gle snack that sums up Macanese food, it’s this. The Por­tuguese egg tart may look like its an­ces­tor, the pas­tel de nata you’d find on the streets of Lis­bon, but these tarts are a uniquely Macanese cre­ation: a smooth, sweet egg cus­tard in a flaw­lessly flaky crisp case that re­tains a dis­tinctly sa­vory note, and a caramelized top to

MACANESE JERKY IS A REV­E­LA­TION: TEN­DER, MOIST, SWEET SLABS OF PORK OR BEEF THAT VEN­DORS CUT INTO STRIPS IN FRONT OF YOU.

de­liver an ex­tra layer of fla­vor to raise it above and be­yond. Many will swear by the dim sum–style egg tart, but that’s just be­cause they’ve not yet had its Macanese cousin, pulled straight from the oven.

AL­MOND COOK­IES

They’re pos­si­bly Ma­cao’s fa­vorite sou­venir, and with good rea­son. One bite of these sweet, dense cook­ies and they crum­ble into pow­der in your mouth (don’t eat them with­out a drink at hand). Al­mond cook­ies are made from ground al­monds, mung bean flour, and su­gar, packed tightly into or­nate wooden molds be­fore be­ing turned out and baked. They come in a wide range of va­ri­eties and fla­vors, but the tra­di­tional ones re­main the best – and free tasters are widely avail­able for those try­ing to find the best of the best.

PORK CHOP BUNS

When it comes to food, a sim­ple thing done well al­ways hits the spot. En­ter the Macanese pork chop bun: a sim­ple cre­ation that’s a tes­ta­ment to its his­tory, fus­ing a thin, mar­i­nated Asian-style pork chop with a crusty Por­tuguese loaf. That’s it: no more and no less, served up straight out of the pan in a pa­per bag. A pork chop bun is a test of the qual­ity of the in­gre­di­ents and the skill of the chef – with no sauce, no ex­tras, and no fancy condi­ments, there’s no room to hide. Which means a great pork chop bun is truly out of this world.

EGG ROLLS

Some­times called phoenix egg rolls, these are more golden parcels than any­thing else. Made of a rich, sweet egg bat­ter cooked pa­perthin on a round grid­dle, this pas­try is then filled and folded while it’s still hot, cool­ing to an im­pos­si­bly crisp bun­dle. The fill­ings run the gamut from sweet to sa­vory: the won­der­fully umami-dense sea­weed and pork floss roll is a firm fa­vorite, as is co­conut and se­same for those with a more straight­for­wardly sweet tooth. Watch them be­ing made in front of your eyes along the Rua de São Paulo.

MACANESE JERKY

Ban­ish from your mind those dried-up strips you have to gnaw for hours be­fore be­ing able to swal­low. Macanese jerky is a rev­e­la­tion: ten­der, moist, sweet slabs of pork or beef that ven­dors cut into strips in front of you, of­fer­ing free tastes to one and all. There’s a myr­iad of cuts and mari­nades avail­able, from beef fil­let to spicy pork neck – so take the time to track down your fa­vored fla­vor.

MACANESE CHILI SHRIMP

Given its long his­tory as a trad­ing port, Ma­cao is an in­her­ently mar­itime city. It’s lit­tle sur­prise, then, that the riches of the South China Sea find their way into the city’s cui­sine. One of the best ex­am­ples is Macanese chili shrimp, a win­ning mix of chili and gar­lic stuffed in­side huge prawns – the big­ger the bet­ter – be­fore be­ing flash-fried in a wok and then steamed with wine. This com­bi­na­tion of Por­tuguese and Chi­nese cook­ing tech­niques re­sults in beau­ti­ful shrimp served still in their shells, mean­ing there’s only one way to eat them – with your fingers. And re­mem­ber to slurp those juices out of the head – they’re the very best bit.

POR­TUGUESE BACALHAU

There’s a say­ing in Por­tu­gal: there are 1,001 ways to pre­pare bacalhau. Dried, salted cod is the na­tional in­gre­di­ent and a tes­ta­ment to Por­tu­gal’s erst­while mar­itime power: fished from the wa­ters of New­found­land and brought thou­sands of miles back to Por­tu­gal – and then thou­sands more to Ma­cao. As in Lis­bon or Porto, there are count­less prepa­ra­tions of this flaky fish in Ma­cao. One of the most ubiq­ui­tous (and most de­li­cious) is pastéis de bacalhau: deep­fried cod frit­ters, with crisp bat­ter en­cas­ing ten­der fish and potato flecked with pars­ley.

CHOURIÇO

This rich, fatty pork sausage fla­vored with pa­prika and wine, cousin to Span­ish chorizo, is a must-eat in the city. For first timers, there’s one way you have to or­der it: as­sado, in which a whole sausage is flam­béed ta­ble­side in an earth­en­ware bowl. It’s not just great the­ater – this cook­ing method also lends the chouriço a stun­ning char. Washed down with a bot­tle of vinho verde, there are few bet­ter ways to while away an af­ter­noon.

ARROZ DE PATO

Baked duck rice has long been a Macanese fa­vorite, and it’s easy to see why. In this clas­sic Por­tuguese recipe, chouriço and fall-apart ten­der duck are em­bed­ded in­side spiced rice cooked in duck broth, and then baked in the oven for an ex­tra layer of caramelized fla­vor. The fat from

the duck and chouriço seeps into the rice, de­liv­er­ing a phe­nom­e­nal rich­ness ev­ery mouth­ful. It might be a lit­tle much for the height of a hu­mid Macanese sum­mer, but in the colder months, this dish truly comes into its own.

SERRADURA

Ser­radurra is Por­tuguese for “saw­dust.” That may not be the most ap­peal­ing name for a dessert, but this pud­ding re­wards those who or­der it. It takes its name from the finely crum­bled tea bis­cuits which form part of this lay­ered con­struc­tion, along­side a sweet­ened vanilla whipped cream. There are two va­ri­eties of this dish avail­able: a softer pud­ding-style, or the more in­ter­est­ing semi-freddo vari­ant, which is more like an ice cream.

CHI­NESE DOU­BLE SKIN MILK

The name may be still less ap­peal­ing than “saw­dust pud­ding,” but dou­ble skin milk is a Ma­cao favourite that far ex­ceeds its moniker. It’s a flaw­less milk cus­tard, sweet and smooth and del­i­cate in the mouth, leav­ing be­hind a taste of rich, creamy milk. The name de­rives from a dou­ble cook­ing process, which leaves the skin of the milk in­tact on top of the cus­tard for an in­trigu­ing tex­tu­ral con­trast. It’s avail­able both hot and cold – go with what­ever suits the sea­son.

SHRIMP ROE NOO­DLES

Ma­cao con­tains some of the few restau­rants left in the world that make their noo­dles the old-fash­ioned way, by knead­ing the dough with large bam­boo poles. It’s back­break­ing work which calls for early morn­ings and a lot of el­bow grease, but the steady, even pres­sure of bam­boo knead­ing is said to cre­ate per­fectly springy noo­dles. They’re cooked for just a few sec­onds and dressed very sim­ply, with soy sauce, spring onions, and a gen­er­ous hand­ful of dried shrimp roe. This stuff is a true magic in­gre­di­ent, a crunchy umami bomb that per­fectly sets off those al dente noo­dles and guar­an­tees you’ll be back for more.

HAR GAU

If you want to know how good a dim sum restau­rant is, or­der the har gau. These de­cep­tively sim­ple look­ing shrimp dumplings are the big­gest test of a chef’s skills: the del­i­cate, translu­cent dumpling skin must be thick enough to con­strain its con­tents, but not so thick as to be claggy; and the shrimp in­side must be fresh, per­fectly sea­soned, and steamed to per­fec­tion. It’s no easy task, and once you’ve found the per­fect par­cel you’ll know you’re in good hands.

CHEUNG FUN

These steamed rice noo­dle rolls are like a great pair of jeans: they can be dressed up or down to suit any oc­ca­sion. In the streets, the plain rolls are served doused in soy, hoisin, and se­same sauce, with a dose of chili for an ex­tra hit of fla­vor. Restau­rants use them to wrap ev­ery­thing from del­i­cate shrimp to meaty roasted pork to crisp sa­vory dough­nuts. In Ma­cao, a spe­cial prepa­ra­tion of cheung fun in­volves pour­ing beaten egg onto the rice sheets be­fore they’re rolled up, cre­at­ing a rich and hearty multi-lay­ered treat.

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