A brief history of Macau's cuisine

Macau's unique cuisine is an interesting fusion of Eastern and Western influence and a definite highlight of any visit. Here we outline the Macanese dishes you should try.

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Writer

Buzzing with energy, Macau has come a long way to become one of China’s top tourist destinations. The 16th century saw the arrival of Portuguese sailors to what was then a developing harbour town. As the Western travellers settled in, they sought to recreate their homeland, and traces of this are visible along the streets of the historic centre of Macau.

However it was in the culinary field that they struck gold. The enthusiastic Portuguese cooks welcomed the local ingredients, combined them with their own culture, and ended up creating a new culinary wonder, now simply known as Macanese cuisine.

Macanese dishes are a combination of Portuguese recipes with Cantonese ingredients, and the results are absolutely delicious. Over the centuries, the new travellers arriving in town have added new seasonings from across the globe, enhancing the originality of this type of cuisine.

Seafood is the primary ingredient in many dishes, especially cod, or 'bacalhau' as it is called in Portuguese. You will also notice the presence of various spices, particularly coconut milk, turmeric and ginger. The cooking process undergoes lengthy preparation to bring out the wholesome flavours.

So, as you glance through the menu at the restaurant tonight, watch out for a few classics. Caldo verde is very similar to the original Portuguese dish, and it is the number one starter. This traditional soup is made with potatoes, onion and bok choy, used by the Portuguese settlers in place of kale, slightly more bitter.

A typical main dish is Minchi, made with potatoes, minced beef or pork, and seasoned with cumin, garlic and soy sauce. It is usually served alongside rice and is very popular. Galinha a la Portuguese is a recipe that exists only in Macau. It was invented by the Portuguese immigrants and immediately became a favourite. It consists of fried chicken, peppers, onions, potatoes, coconut milk and a few other ingredients, slow-cooked in a pan and then baked...a definite must try. You may also find bacalhau, whether baked, grilled, stewed or fried in croquettes, and Macanese chilli prawns.

Macau cusine

For dessert, there is a classic that you should try: pasteis de nata – and in Macau, the de rigueur location at which to sample them is Lord Stow’s Bakery. The story behind these delicious egg tarts has entered the realm of legend. They are based on a Portuguese recipe, reformulated by a British chemist using Macanese products. The result is...well you’ll just have to try them yourself...I can assure you won’t regret it.

Whether you opt for the Michelin-star venues or a quicker bite at the less formal street-food establishments, we're convinced that you'll enjoy the unique Macanese fusion.