From Portuguese sardines to Cantonese dimsums: guide to the cuisine of Macau

Pratiksha Rao | July 05, 2013 20:13 IST

As all of Bollywood heads to Macau for the upcoming IIFA 2013 awards, we head to Macau to discover the country that exists outside of the Venetian Hotel, where the awards will be held. You can tell a lot about a person through the food he or she eats; so what better way to explore this country than through its colorful cuisine.

Macanese (pronounced may-ka-neese) cuisine is a delicious melange of Portuguese, Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisines. The Portuguese settled Macau, which is today a Chinese special administrative region, in the 16th century. The Portuguese settlers brought the flavours that they had borrowed from their colonies in Africa, India and Malacca Straits, along with classic Portuguese dishes to Macau.

Here are some Macanese classics that are a favourite not just with the tourists headed to the nearest casino but also with the locals:

Portuguese custard tarts: These soft custard tarts or Pasteis de Nata are a Macau original and are said to have been invented at Lord Stow's Bakery. The bakery usually has a queue going around the block. These tarts are enjoyed best with a warm cup of coffee on a cool evening.

Pork chop buns: Tai Lei Loi Kei is said to be the home of the original local "fast food" favourite - pork chop buns. As the name of the dish explains, it is simply a fried pork chop in a bun, a dish so simple, and yet so irresistible. The USP of the dish is its simplicity, consistency and freshness as each bun is made to order.

Galinha a Africana: This is the real Portuguese chicken, way before Nando's was in business. Espaco Lisboa is one of the popular restaurants that serve this African inspired Portuguese preparation of chicken. Also known as franco assado, this dish is cooked made of barbequed chicken cooked with spicy piri piri sauce.

Dim Sum: A Chinese favourite across the world, dimsums is one of those appetizers of which no one can get one. Har gaw, a canotnese classic, is a popular dimsum in Macau. The Eight, a fine dining Cantonese restaurant, serves har gaw and other dimsums in innovative and whimsical shapes.

Portuguese meats: One of the most famous restaurants in Macau is a rustic Portuguese restaurant-Fernando. From chorizos to grilled fresh sardines to roast suckling pigs to clams, Portuguese cuisine in its original and classic avatar can be found easily in Macau. Fernando is a favourite not just with the tourists but also the locals, which speaks volumes about the consistency and quality of food and service.

Minchi: This ground meat stir fry is almost a national dish and home staple in Macau. A local favourite restaurant, Wai Kei is known for its authentic minchi. Minchi is a stir fry of mostly beef or pork mince cooked with soy sauce and spices, served with rice. The dish's name is said to come from when the local Cantonese tried to emulate the British colonizers living next door in Hong Kong and say the word "minced".

Steamed milk pudding: This Macau classic is best tried at Yee Shun Milk Company outlets. The pudding is simply milk steamed with egg and sugar, very close to a custard recipe. This dish is known for its silky smooth texture and comforting taste. The Milk Company rears its own cows and is thus able to maintain the freshness of milk.

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