Portuguese food in Macau

30 Dec


Sanjay Matta, is a freelance Chef specializing in French Cuisine. Having got his Diploma in “The Chef Course and Culinary Arts” at Institut de Formation (INFA), Chantilly, (France), he has been a consultant chef for Dune Beach Eco Hotel in Pondicherry, 10 Downing street pub & restaurant in Chennai to name a few.

I was in Macau last week on a culinary tour to the region and was being introduced to the food there. The locals are very proud of their heritage and rich influences from their colonial past. I was recalling that this is much the same as at home, where our food has been so much influenced by our colonists that we don’t realize how much. Much of the food that we eat today has its roots in the colonization of the “new world” during the 17th to 19th century. Along with trade and commerce an inter-mingling of culture and architecture was in process. Food habits were evolving thick and fast.

Among the European colonists that came in search of newer trade the Portuguese were perhaps in the lead not just in their domination of the trade routes but their far-reaching influence that has had a lasting effect to this day. What would Indian food be, for that matter any food, if they (the Portuguese) hadn’t introduced potato to us? And can one imagine our food without chillies or coriander or eggplant? As we know it, the Portuguese influence is most adapted in Goan cuisine which is in itself influenced by the cuisine in Africa. Dishes like the piri piri, sorpotel, and vindalhoo were some of the dishes that the Portuguese introduced to their local colonies.

Back in Macau, their food is intermingled between the cuisines of the mainland China and the former Portuguese rulers. Two of the more fascinating dishes that I like were Milk Pudding, which is a popular dish that has seen a few centuries, and the Egg Tart. Macau has its own version of the milk pudding. There are regional versions of the dish in India, or Greece or Israel (where it is called the Malabi, is often flavoured with rose or orange) but here in Macau the dish comes plain or topped with red bean and lotus seed and various flavours like ginger. The place to eat it is Leitaria I Son at the popular Senado Square. There is also a must-try dessert Serradura, that is very much Portuguese inspired and tastes much like the Tiramisu. Translated, it means “saw-dust”. It is relatively a simple dish made up of whipped cream and biscuit crumbs, which resembles sawdust.

But possibly the most popular pastry is the Macanese version of the Portuguese egg tart. The dish was made popular by a Macau based Briton, the late Andrew Stow, the founder of the iconic Lord Stow’s Bakery at Coloane Town Square. Both the locals and in equal measure the tourists flock to the bakery for the tart which it is believed he brought from one of his trips to Portugal as recently as the 1980s.

Just as famous is another dish pork-chop-buns that makes for a great snack, consisting of a tender, juicy fried pork chop placed in a lightly toasted bun. The bun is by measure one of Macau’s foodie favourites that you can savour at the Café Tai Lei Loi Kei, located in Taipa Village. Be warned that the buns are served only after 3 PM and sold out over the next hour or two!

Macau has so many delightful cuisine experiences to offer, that it is often termed as a food haven! And what greater testimony to this than the fact that chef Robuchon has his atelier here called Robuchon a Galera at the Hotel Lisboa.

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