For such a small territory, Macau is known for a surprising number of things. This tiny 11 square miles of dry land has some of the worlds largest casino resorts, one of the best preserved historic centers (almost all of central Macau is a declared heritage site), it holds its own world famous annual motorsport race, plus believe it or not, despite all the development going on, it still has some isolated villages that look like they haven’t been touched by time. And last but not least, Macau is one of Asia’s most renowed foodie destinations. How do you fit all this in a land area that’s not even one-fourth of Singapore, let alone Hong Kong? Only the people of Macau know.
Macanese cuisine (a blend of Macau and Portugese), is unique to Macau. Familiar Iberian dishes are given a bit of Chinese flair. There are a number of Macanese restaurants of good repute scattered across Macau, but the most accessible perhaps is Restaurante Platao, just a few steps along a side street off Senado Square. Hidden in a courtyard of a building (you won’t see it until you’re right infront of it), the restaurant looks like a piece of portugal dropped in the center of busy Macau. With its cozy and comfortable al fresco dining area, you could take a picture of yourself there and pretend you’re in Lisbon.
But if the ambiance is great, the food is even better. You can’t leave Macau without a bite of Bacalhau, and Restaurante Platao has various versions of it. We had the Baked Bacalhau with Mixed Seafood which was absolutely superb. The Portugese Fried Rice was equally great.
Tai Lei Loi Kei
Another unique Macau offering is the Pork Chop Bun. No, not pork buns like what Hong Kong’s Tim Ho Wan is known for, but an actual slab of pork sandwiched in a large, crusty bun. There are numerous stalls, especially heading out to St. Pauls, that sell pork chop buns, but the original (and many say still the best), is Tai Lei Loi Kei. The original store in Taipa village still deserves a pilgrimage, but they made their buns more accesible to the geographically challenged by opening a store in the Venetian foodcourt, in the heart of Cotai.
Frankly I didn’t know what to expect about pork chop buns. I knew pork chop as a chewy piece of meat, and I don’t normally appreciate chewy food with bread. However my first bite was nothing like my inital thoughs. The pork was incredibly tender and so flavorful. The bun was definitely something to write home about as well. It has a “sufficient” crust, giving a slightly crunchy bite (which I liked), and the inside was tender but never felt dry in the mouth. It had good flavor as well and would have been good to eat even on its own. The combination with the pork chop was perfect however, as the bread gave a good contrast to the flavor of the meat.
Another item Macau is widely known for is egg tarts, and you can find one in almost every reputable bakery here. The original though (and still the best if I may say so) is Lord Stow’s. Though Lord Stows stores have sprung all over Asia, there’s still a bit of novelty in eating a tart in Macau soil. Their original bakery in out-of-the-way Coloane is worth a visit (which we did a couple of years back), but they have other stores in more accessible places, including one beside a canal at the Venetian.
Pasteleria Koi Kei
I should confess, I’m an addict of Pasteleria Koi Kei’s peanut bars. Holding myself back from devouring a pack of it is a monumental effort in itself. One of Macau’s most popular and prolific pastelerias (pastry shop), you’ll find a Koi Kei store in almost every corner, and there’s even two next to each other a few meters from the Ruins of Saint Paul. Both these stores and the one at Senado Square tend to get jam packed with people though, so if you’d like to have a more “peaceful” buying experience, head for the other stores like the one at Rua de Felicidade, or at Calcada da Barra a few steps from Templo A Ma. Warning: Koi Kei pastries are addictive.
A Little Congee Shop near Rua de Felicidade
Macau has quite a number of big names in the food scene, but it’s got exotic choices for the more adventurous as well. Areas like the Rua de Felcidade are known to have small, good, “nameless” restaurants.
When we were there early one morning though, the only open place was a small congee (rice porridge) shop whose name I couldn’t even read. Congee is almost a staple in Chinese breakfasts it seems. All breakfast buffets I’ve had in Shanghai, Beijing and Taipei had one thing in common – congee. Not that I’m one to complain…cool mornings and warm congee are a match made in heaven.
This store in Rua de Felicidad had a long menu of congee filled with every topping imaginable, from plain meatballs to pig innards to seafood, etc. And it was good.
Mak’s Noodles at Hong Kong’s Peak Galleria
We also skipped over to Hong Kong during this year’s trip, though we didn’t really get to explore much in terms of food. One notable place though is a small noodle store called Mak’s Noodles at the ground floor of the Peak Galleria. Their menu is simple – just noodles with various meats and broths to choose from. Their servings look deceptively small, but are actually filling – like small packages that pack a punch. And since it’s always been chilling cold each time I’m at the Peak, a hot bowl of their noodles doesn’t get any better.
* All photos taken last October and November 2014, using an Olympus EPM-2 with M. Zuiko 25mm f1.8.