Like many other great culinary destinations, Macau’s uniquely east-meets-west cuisine owes its existence both to its geographical location and colourful history.
Here, local southern Chinese ingredients have blended with Portuguese techniques and innovations to produce incredible dishes that make this special administrative region of China truly worthy of UNESCO’s recognition as a Creative City of Gastronomy.
One of the easiest ways to sample them is by booking a food-focused Macau tour package that gives you the opportunity to sight-see while filling your tummy.
Keep reading for our list of treats you shouldn’t miss when you’re in Macau.
These egg tarts—commonly referred to as Portuguese or Macanese egg tarts to differentiate them from their Hong Kong counterparts—are arguably the city’s most popular snack. Based on Portuguese pastéis de nata, they are the original creation of a British baker named Andrew Stow, whose unique spin on the treat caused an “egg tart frenzy” in the late ‘90s. He was able to differentiate his product from Hong Kong egg tarts by making the filling more custard-like and encasing it in a flaky puff pastry crust, where its Hong Kong counterpart is made with a crumbly tart shell and a jelly filling.
Find the very first Lord Stow’s Bakery in the village of Coloane, or pick up a box from any of the other Macau outlets in the city. Lord Stow’s egg tarts are also available outside of Macau, with franchises in Hong Kong, Japan, and the Philippines. Fun fact: Andrew Stow is not, in fact, a member of the British nobility. The nickname was simply bestowed upon him by his staff during his time managing one of the restaurants at Macau’s Hyatt Regency, now known as Grand Hyatt Macau.
When in southern China, do as the southern Chinese do. Dim sum is the breakfast (or brunch) of champions, and the Cantonese do it best. It’s actually not just a single dish; instead, dim sum is more a collection of small plates usually enjoyed with a pot of tea. It’s more fun eating dim sum as a group, and some restaurants open as early as 5 AM to cater to large crowds. Your best bet is by going where the old folks go. An establishment with a sizable clientele of elderly people usually means high-quality eats and value for money.
When going to a restaurant, make sure to order pots of tea for the table, and choose whatever looks good on the menu. One staple is har gow, which are steamed dumplings made with plump and juicy shrimp. Siu mai, another type of steamed dumplings, are one made with pork and mushrooms. There’s also cheong fun, known as rice noodle rolls in English, which are typically filled with beef, shrimp, and a variety of vegetables.
Don’t restrict yourself to the steamer baskets, though! The baked barbecue pork buns are just as good as the steamed variant. There’s also fried spring rolls, meatballs, crispy pork belly, and braised ribs. As an insider tip, consider skipping dinner the night before since you can expect yourself to be sitting and eating for hours when you visit a traditional Cantonese dim sum restaurant.
When Anthony Bourdain visited Macau for his Travel Channel show No Reservations, he lauded the porkchop bun as “[an] invention that made the world a better place to live in”. He loved them so much that he even included a recipe for Macau-style pork chop sandwiches in his own cookbook, Appetites.
Porkchop bun a simple and straightforward affair: a thick-cut bone-in porkchop is marinated and deep-fried for a tender and juicy texture before being placed between crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside plain Portuguese buns. Bourdain had his at the street-side, open-air Taipa establishment Tai Leo Loi Kei. Established in 1968, the café has seen rapid growth over the years, with branches now open in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. It’s come a long way from its humble origins, considering how the chain now operates a counter at The Venetian Macao. For a variation on the classic, try the polo porkchop bun, where they substitute the plain bread with a pineapple bun.
Minchi (or minchee) is Macau’s national dish, a humble meal that consists of minced or ground meat and diced potatoes stir-fried with onions and spices in a soy or Worcestershire-based sauce, typically served with a fried egg over a bed of warm rice.
Many locals consider the minchi as the ultimate comfort food, and it is easy to make with whatever you happen to have on hand. Beef seems to be the standard protein of choice for many people, but you can also make minchi with pork, chicken, fish or prawns. Conversely, you can swap out the potatoes for bitter melon, zucchini, or wood ear mushrooms. You can also use molasses in place of Worcestershire sauce. The possibilities are endless, and there are as many variations on the dish as there are people making it.
You can find minchi all over Macau, in cafés and sit-down restaurants, at food courts and street stalls alike. Being this accessible, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t grab a bowl at least once.
GOING TO MACAU
The easiest way to get to Macau is by flying first into Hong Kong and then taking the ferry over to the city.
Nevertheless Macau International Airport is fast becoming a popular stop for budget airlines from neighboring Asian countries.
This city is small, compact, and very walkable, making it easy to get around.
Should you wish to cover more ground, scooters and bicycles are popular with locals and tourists alike.