“Lutong macao” is a term you’ll often hear, not in Macau (or Macao in Portugese), but here in the Philippines. The term does have a bit of a sinister connotation (it means a result tampered by cheating, like a rigged ball game or election result), but in the purest sense of the phrase, it just means “Macau cuisine” (“luto” is Filipino for “cook”). How “lutong Macao” got to have another meaning, I have no idea.
Anyway, we recently were in Macau, and got to taste a little bit of the real “lutong Macao”, and this is no lutong macao…get it? 🙂
THE ALLEYS AROUND SENADO SQUARE
The narrow streets and alleys around Senado Square (Lagro do Senado) can make a playground for a passionate foodie. If one would really take time to appreciate everything edible in this historical center of Macau, it would not be hard to imagine taking half a day to go through the compact but “bursting” area. I say “bursting”, since the area – especially as you appoach the Ruins of St. Paul – probably has one of the highest “food per square meter” density I have come across.
The alley approaching the ruins is densely packed with shops selling pastries that Macau is known for, like almond biscuits, peanut candies, and so on. The most famous of these is Pastelaria Koi Kei and it’s almost “mandatory” to drop by each time one visits Macau. They have two stores in this short stretch, and another one a short walk away in Senado Square. Whether they have some more in other nearby streets and alleys, I would not know. How their stores can thrive despite being at such close proximity to each other is beyond me, but Koi Kei really is very popular there,
Almost every shop in the alley also sells dried meat of various kinds or “bakkwa”, varying by the type of meat (eg. chicken, pork, beef), flavor (some are spicy, some are a bit sweet, etc.) and quality – and you could almost call it “dried meat street”. Each shop displays stacks of dried meat out in the storefont, ready to temp and snag sightseers coming down from the ruins. The most popular among these though are Koi Kei and Bee Cheng Hiang, but should you opt not to join the bandwagon and pick the all too common, all the shops in this stretch give a free taste of their dried meat, so it’s fairly easy to pick which one suits your taste buds the best.
LORD STOW’S BAKERY @ COLOANE VILLAGE
Another well known export of Macau, next to losing gamblers and a few lucky ones, is Lord Stow’s. From its humble origins as a bakery in the sleepy village of Coloane in Macau, Lord Stow’s has grown phenomenally and now has several stores across Asia, selling their famous egg tarts and other baked goodies.
Today the original bakery is still around, still fully functioning, and I guess still looking much like way it did when the first Lord Stow egg tart got sold. Though it’s a bit out of the way from the usual places people would go to in Macau, it still gets a lot of visitors, many of whom are toting cameras and snapping frantically here and there (obviously tourists like us), making it a “pilgrimage site” of sorts… for the mighty egg tart.
LORD STOW’S GARDEN CAFE @ COLOANE VILLAGE
A stone’s throw away from the original Lord Stow’s bakery (assuming you have a good enough arm to hurl a stone at a decent distance), is the Lord Stow’s Garden Cafe. It’s the same Lord Stow’s that we know, selling the same egg tarts that made the brand famous, but here they also serve full meals. Very conveniently located a few steps away from the Vila de Coloane bus stop, it’s one of the very first things you will see in Coloane if you are arriving by public bus.
The Garden Cafe has an attractive brick and wood exterior, looking like something out of an old European village, and it was nicely accented by red poinsettia plants when we were there (it was December). Inside, the place is fairly small, but it’s got a nice, comfy, rustic feel to it. They have a varied international menu, and if the food we ordered there was a benchmark, then the place isn’t bad at all. Be prepared to queue up though as the place looks packed even on non-peak hours, though once you are seated, service is considerably quick by our experience.
WONG CHI KEI NOODLE AND CONGEE HOUSE
Right in the midst of all the action in Senado Square is Wong Chi Kei, known for Noodles and Congee (rice porridge). The place has a humble, unassuming facade on the left side of the square (coming from the main street), but you’ll know it’s something once you see the queue outside. Being right in the center of the world in Macau, the place is fairly accessible to anyone roaming around the peninsula, and it’s good enough for people to be willing to wait for their turn. The waiting list really does get long in peak hours though, but there’s plenty to see around the square while waiting, and once your food is served you’ll know that the waiting wasn’t for naught. The staff may not be the world’s most attentive (they could get overwhelmed by the quick turn-over of diners), but once your order is placed the food does come pretty quick. And for a place that’s in such a prime spot, their prices are relatively cheap.
WING KEE BEEF OFFAL
I was addicted to this since our first night in Macau. I saw this place right beside the hotel with a bit of a crowd gathered around it. It was nothing more than a hole-in-the-wall, with no tables so everyone was ordering for take-out, and I decided to not let the night pass without getting a taste of whatever was in there.
What was in there turned out to be a large freezer with various skewered stuff, like fishballs, squid balls, veggies, mushrooms and so on. On the counter behind it are even more ingredients like various meats, noodles and some other stuff. You pick whatever you fancy among the multitude of ingredients and the cooks “dunk” it in a steaming hot broth to cook. Spices are then added (if you like it spicy), but you could also tell the cook if you’d like it sweet instead, and the whole thing is served to you in a styrofoam bowl or box.
The result of all that was a hot, tasty stew that was perfect for cool evenings, and I couldn’t get enough of it.
McDonalds? Yup, that ubiquitous M you find almost everywhere. The only reason I put it here was because of something I found on their breakfast meals menu. It’s a soupy pasta that I found all to unusual. I’m unsure how well received that was by the locals, but I myself found the taste…err…weird.
* Wong Chi Kei in Senado Square, and the numerous Koi Kei shops within the square and on the alleys leading up to the Ruins of St. Paul can be reached by bus. Take buses 3, 4, 6, 8A, 18A, 19, 26A, 33 or N1A to “Almeida Ribiero” if coming from the south (eg. Terminal Maritimo, Torre De Macau, Grand Prix Museum, Airport, Venetian, etc). If coming from the north (eg. Border crossing), take the multitude of bus routes that stop at “Almeida Ribiero/Rua Mercadores”.
* The Lord Stow’s Bakery and the Garden Cafe are on Coloane Village and can be reached through the “Vila de Coloane-1” or -2 bus stop. Take bus 15, 21A, 25, 26, 26A, 50 or N3 (look for these routes in your originating bus stop). Bus fare is MOP 5.00 from any point in the Macau Peninsula, MOP4.20 if coming from Taipa, and MOP 2.80 if coming from other stops within Coloane.
* Wing Kee Beef Offal is very close to the “Rua De Pequim / Holiday Inn” bus stop, which is served by many bus routes.
* We were in Macau last December 2012. All photos taken with Panasonic Lumix LX5.