Food, Snacks and Coffee+ Back

Introduction

 

Macau’s unique history has always given it a leg up on other dining destinations.  The Portuguese brought a slice of Iberia to the Orient, the local Southern Chinese introduced Cantonese food from Guangdong and Fujian, and then Macanese cuisine developed at the end, a truly unique world food culled from Portugal’s great Naval expedition Eastward, and the integration of spices, vegetables and other ingredients from Africa, India, Indonesia and China.  It's all resulted in Macau being home to the best Portuguese food in Asia, the most authentic Cantonese fare outside of the mainland and Hong Kong, as well as one fantastic local cuisine created and developed through the centuries by the Portuguese, yet strangely enough can't be found in Portugal, only in Macau. 


The dining scene has also benefited greatly from the expolosive growth of the casino industry over the past 15 years, as evidenced by the 2017 Michelin Guide, which awarded stars to 19 of Macau's restaurants, quite an impressive achievement for a city that doesn't even a million people.  The introduction of superlative French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Indian cuisine has turned Macau into a true world class dining destination, one that only promises to get better in the years to come.


In this section, I'm going to break it all down for you, by introducing Macau's local cuisine and snacks, as well as recommend restaurants that I enjoy visiting myself.  I'll then hand the reins over to the "Titan of Trip Advisor" Brad Reynolds, who will tell you all you need to know about the emerging coffee scene.

Let’s start with the local cuisine.


Macanese food


One of the world’s first fusion foods, Macanese cuisine is fundamentally Portuguese in origin, structure and cooking style, but international in its use of spices, ingredients and seasonings.  It dates back to the foundation of the city, when Portuguese sailors took recipes from home and tried to make them work halfway across the world.  Faced with an inevitable shortage of traditional food supplies, they were forced to use African, Indian, Malaysian and Chinese ingredients instead, integrating them with classic Portuguese dishes to create a brand new world cuisine. 

 

A true fusion food in every sense of the word, integral ingredients in many Macanese dishes include balichao (Chinese shrimp paste), garam masala (Northern Indian/South Asian seasoning), coconut and coconut milk (Indonesia/Malaysia), mui de gargenta (Chinese plums), goji berries (red Chinese berries), turmeric (Indian curry or colouring agent), and tamarind (African and Indian fruit), among others. 
 

Two Macanese dishes that I’d like to recommend are African Chicken and Minchi.  Popular consensus seems to be that Henri’s Galley currently makes the best African Chicken, while great Minchi can be had at A Vencedora, Rickshaw, and Carlos.  Other Macanese fare worth trying include Seafood Rice, Baked Codfish, Feijoada (pork with black beans), Portuguese Chicken, Curried Crab, Pork with Balichao and Tamarind, and Macanese Chilli Shrimps. 

If you’d like to learn more about Macanese cuisine and how to prepare it, there’s a great cookbook on sale for $170 at the Portuguese bookshop near St. Dominic’s Church called “The Cuisine of Macao from My Grandfather’s House.”   

In terms of restaurants, it’s difficult for me to recommend ones which are 100% Macanese, because I’m not sure that they exist.  Maybe the best I can do is list restaurants which are pre-dominantly Macanese or at least half Macanese, and hope that’s good enough.  Here are a selection of my favourites.  

Litoral

Location: Rua do Almirante Sergio 261-Aa plate of Minchi at A Vencedora
Phone number: (853) 2896 7878
Price: $300/person

Carlos
Location: Rua Cidade de Braga
Phone number: (853) 2875 1838
Price: $300/person
a bowl of African Chicken at Henri's Galley
Rickshaw
Location: No.69 Avenida Sidonio Pais
Phone number: (853) 2856 5655
Price: $100/person

Educational Restaurant
Location: Pousada de Mong Ha
Phone number: (853) 8598 3077a bowl of seafood rice at A Petisqueira
Price: $250/person

Chef’s Table
Location: Avenida Do Coronel Mesquita 46-48
Phone number: (853) 6685 5889
Price: $500/person

 

Please note that the Educational Restaurant has a Portuguese and Macanese buffet every Friday night for $280 (adult) and $140 (child).
 

The Chef’s Table is private dining only, and only an option for larger groups, since the minimum booking is for 10 people.  Prices are very good with one soup, appetizer, salad, dessert and one to two main courses $500 per person.  In addition to Macanese food, Portuguese and Vegetarian selections are also available.  Please note that bookings have to be confirmed at least 3 days prior to the event date.


Portuguese food


Portuguese restaurants in Macau tend to be very consistent - and consistently good -  for a very simple reason.  Many of the chefs who run them are Portuguese and were trained in Portugal, before crossing the ocean to set up restaurants here.  In fact, most of the city's most famous restaurants are Portuguese joints that have been open for 20 or 30 years, a testament to their class, quality and consistency.  They’re often very good value too, far more economical than the gouging you typically experience when trying International fare in the big casino hotels.


Menus in Portuguese restaurants tend to be about 40% meat and 40% seafood.  Cod is a signature dish and is prepared in a multitude of ways, while octopus, sardines, squid, lobster, shrimp and prawns are also heavily featured.  Paella, or seafood rice is another popular option, with some restaurants serving it more in a soupy form.  My favourite fish to try is the local Macau Sole which most restaurants do quite well.  (Cod is often far too heavy and oily for my liking.)


As for meat, pork, beef, chicken and lamb are all staple Portuguese offerings, and standard dishes include Suckling Pig, Portuguese Chicken, Lamb Leg, and Duck Rice.


For desserts, be sure to try serradurra, which literally translates as “sawdust”, a type of chilled pudding, which can also be served as ice cream.  Taipa Village’s Gelatina Mok Yi Kei is reputed to make the best ice cream version.


Here are five Portuguese restaurants that I’d like to recommend.


A Baia
Location: Rua de Londres no. 88a pan of garlic prawns at A Baia
Phone number: (853) 2875 1465
Price: $300/person

A Petisqueira
Location: Rua de S. Joao, no. 15, Taipa Village
Phone number: (853) 2882 5354
Price: $300/person
a bowl of octopus salad at O Santos
Dom Galo
Location: 32 Avenida Sir Anders Ljungstedt
Phone number: (853) 2875 1383
Price: $300/person

Man Lei
Location: G/F 17-19 Calcada Da Barra
Phone number: (853) 2855 8355a plate of Mirandesa Steak at Fado
Price: $220/person

Miramar
Location: Zona Norte, Praia de Hac Sa
Phone number: (853) 2888 2623
Price: $300/person

Cantonese food

Cantonese food is the dominant food in Macau and I’d wager that more than 70% of the restaurants in town serve it in one form or another.  Compared to other styles of Chinese food, Cantonese cuisine has a simpler, purer taste.  Oil, spices and seasoning are seldom used; rather the point is to let the natural taste of the food dominate the dish.  For that reason it’s very important that the ingredients used are fresh and of high quality, otherwise things can go sour very fast. 

Dim sum is a staple Cantonese food, often served at lunch or with afternoon tea.  There’s no definitive way to describe exactly what it is, other than a small kind of finger type snack food usually presented as dumplings, steamed buns, rice noodle rolls, or small wraps.  For two people to enjoy a dim sum lunch, you’d probably have to order 6 or 7 different kinds, with each selection costing between $15 and $65, depending on the restaurant.  The best dim sum in town is found at the 8, while the most traditional setting is at Long Wa Teahouse, which is just a pleasure to be in.  If you’re going to try any kind of Cantonese food when you’re in Macau, I’d recommend dim sum, just because it comes in so many different kinds of forms and flavours.  To borrow a line from Forrest Gump: Life is like a plate of dim sum, you’ll never know what you’re going to get. 

Seafood is another large feature of Cantonese cuisine, given Guangdong’s proximity to the sea.  He Fa serves the city’s best seafood but you might need a Chinese friend to help you order the dishes.  For some of them you have to choose directly from the fish tank outside and how much everything costs depends on the weight.  Always be sure to double check the price.  Some things in seafood tanks look innocuous enough but they sure lay the smack down when it’s time to pay the bill.

Besides Cantonese food, many other styles of Chinese cuisine are readily available all over town, including Beijing, Sichuan, Hunan, Shanghai, and my personal favourite, Northeastern. 

The Eight
Location: Grand Lisboaa bowl of Shrimp Dumplings at the 8
Phone number: (853) 8803 7788
Price: $350/person

Long Wa
Location: No.3 Avenida do Almirante Lacerda
Phone number: (853) 2857 4456
Price: $100/person
a plate of Roasted Goose at Tim's Kitchen
Tai Long Fong
Location: 5th of October Street, No 127-129
Phone number: (853) 2892 2459
Price: $130/person

He Fa (seafood)
Location: Behind the gas station beside the Sofitel
Phone number: (853) 2843 6709a plate of boiled fish at He Fa Ma Tou Seafood
Price: $300/person

Campo De Dragon
Location: Ave Do Dr Rodrigo Rodrigues No. 103
Phone number: (853) 2878 2345
Price: $300/person

International food

All major world cuisines are available in Macau, such as French, Italian, Japanese, Indian and Spanish fare.  As for Middle Eastern, African, Eastern European and South American food, your best bet would be to hop a ferry to Hong Kong.  Here’s hoping in the next few years Macau can establish a more comprehensive and diverse international dining scene.

For now, here are some of my favourite International restaurants. 

 

Tasting Room (Contemporary French)
Location: City of Dreamsa plate with a king prawn in sauce at the Tasting Room
Phone number: (853) 8868 6681
Price: $750/person

La Paloma (Spanish)
Location: Pousada de Sao Tiago
Phone number: (853) 2896 8686
Price: $500/person
Leg of lamb at Don Alfonso 1890
Urban Kitchen (World Buffet) 
Location: Galaxy
Phone number: (853) 8886 6228
Price: $230 to $575/person

Golden Peacock (Indian)
Location: Venetian
Phone number: (853) 8118 9696a plate of chargrilled steak at Belon
Price: $400/person

Aurora (Italian)
Location: Altira
Phone number:  (853) 8803 6622
Price: $450/person

Macau snacks


A large part of local commerce revolves around shops that specialise in local snacks and they are ubiquitous in certain parts of the city.  Mainlanders invariably lug three or four big bags of it back across the border, singlehandedly keeping dozens of these businesses and shops afloat.  The snacks sold are quite diverse and most bakeries give out a generous amount of free samples so you can always do a taste test first to see what you like before buying anything.


Koi Kei Bakery and Choi Heong Yuen are the two most popular bakeries in town and their outlets are all over tourist friendly areas, in particular Senado Square, the road that leads up to St Paul’s, the Street of Happiness, Taipa Village and in various shopping Promenades in big Cotai Strip hotels like the Galaxy, City of Dreams and Venetian.  Koi Kei is the industry leader but I’ve always liked to go against the flow, so that's why I prefer Choi Heong Yuen instead.  All of the prices listed below came from their big shop on the road leading to St Paul’s, which is the outlet I always use.  I’d also like to thank them for allowing me to take pictures.

Here’s a quick overview of the most famous local snacks.

Almond Cookies

a plate of almond cookies and almond pastriesI find almond cookies to be way too dry, perhaps the thing to do is take them with tea.  They are available in numerous forms, which include: Almond Cakes with Filling ($56), Almond Cakes Original Recipe ($58), Almond Pastries ($58), “Sunny” Almond Cakes ($53), Almond Cakes Baked in Salt ($45), Almond Cakes with Walnuts ($38), Mini Almond Cake with Shredded Pork Jerky ($40), 1 Bite Almond Cakes with Pumpkin Seeds ($23).

My favourite of the bunch are the Almond Pastries, just be careful when you handle them so that they don’t break apart.

Dried Meat

dried meat at Choi Heong Yuen on St Paul's StreetDried meat is available in two primary flavours, Pork and Beef, and is sold by the pound.  Current prices are as follows: Black Pepper Prime Beef ($148), Curry Beef Jerky ($148), Black Pepper Prime Pork ($98), Spicy Beef ($98), Hot and Spicy Beef ($93), Roasted Piglet ($83), Hot and Spicy Pork ($75), Garlic Pork ($69), Honey Roasted Piglet ($69).

The meat needs to be refrigerated after purchase to ensure that it stays fresh.

Egg Rolls

a plate of seaweed and salmon egg rollsThese egg rolls are interesting treats, I like the one with Seaweed and Salmon for $50 the best.  Others flavours include Seaweed and Shredded Pork ($39), Vegetarian Egg Rolls with Seaweed ($39), Curry Phoenix with Shredded Pork Jerky ($36), and Phoenix Egg Rolls ($35).
 

 

 

Peanut Candies

sesame, black sesame and coconut flavored peanut candiesPeanut Candies come in three flavours that all cost $39: Sesame, Black Sesame, and Coconut.  I usually buy the assorted box so I get all three of them.

 

 

 

 

 

Nougat

blueberry, almond and coffee flavored nougatNougat is the kind of food you try for the first time and then wonder where it's been all of your life, particularly the Blueberry ($55) and Almond ($55) flavors.  Rich, sweet and irresistable, it's heaven in a wrapper.  Coffee ($55) and Peanut ($43) are also available, but I don't think they're on the same level.

 

 

Seaweed

original flavor strips of seaweedI liked seaweed a lot more than I thought I would.  Strangely good, it's kind of addictive too, like potato chips you start eating and then can't put down.  Seaweed comes in three flavours that all cost $46: Original, Hot and Spicy and Wasabi. 

 

 

 

Assorted Cookies

a plate of four Walnut cookiesWalnut Cookies ($48), Mini Walnut Cookies ($39), Cashew Cookies ($46), Abalone Pastries ($58), Oatmeal Pastries ($58).

Walnut Cookies are the definite star here.  If you buy any Macau snack, buy that.

 

 

 Assorted Cakes

a plate of three Sweet heart cakes with watermelon pasteLotus Seed Cakes ($48), Pineapple Short Cake ($41), White Sugar Cake ($29), Brown Sugar Cake ($29), Parched Rice Cakes ($39), Garden Cakes ($29).

 

I personally like Sweet Heart Cakes with Winter Melon Paste ($48) the most, and they're pictured on the left.

 

 

I’d also like to mention two other famous Macau local snacks, Pork Chop buns and Portuguese egg tarts.  I’ve personally never understood the hype behind pork chop buns, but Tai Lei Lok Kei is reputed to make the best ones, an opinion I don’t share.  I kind of think they're really all the same. 

 

As for egg tarts, Lord Stow’s Cafe and Margaret’s Cafe are generally considered to be the top two producers.  The only way to know which one you like better is try both of them yourself and then make a decision.  Lord Stow's tarts are heavier and sweeter, not to mention the originals, so I prefer them over Margaret's.

 

Coffee

 

Fellow Macau enthusiast Brad Reynolds wrote this great piece about the emerging coffee scene in Macau for the Travel2Next website found here, Coffee Culture: Best Coffee in Macau.  Coffee is beyond my realm of expertise so I'd like to thank Brad for writing the piece and allowing me to link it for this site.

 

Brad actually wrote a series of articles about Macau for Travel2Next, all of which are very good and worth reading.  I especially enjoyed the ones about the St. Lazarus District, Coloane, and 10 Places to Go for Art Lovers.  Great work Brad!