Glitzy casinos and larger-than-life hotels often come to mind when one thinks of Macau, but there’s so much more to the city than just the high-rolling life.
As China’s first—and last—European colony, Macau’s colonial legacy is evident in the Portugese street signs, architecture, and cobbled streets that dot the city’s historical center.
It’s also evident in the food, which Unesco has called “the world’s first fusion cuisine.”
When the Portuguese established a trading post in Macau in the 1500s, they brought spices from other parts of Asia, including India, Malaysia, and Thailand, and mixed them with Chinese ingredients. They also tried to recreate dishes from home using what was available.
The result was Macanese cuisine.
Some of the dishes include minchi, minced pork flavored with soy sauce, and pato cabidela, a Portuguese dish made with duck cooked in its own blood.
Although the city is now flush with Michelin-starred fine dining options, thanks to its development into a casino hub, you can get the most authentic taste of Macanese food on the streets. Here are our five favorites, and they can all be found in the old city center around Senado Square.
Egg tarts 蛋挞
While you can find egg tarts in many places around the world, Macau’s egg tart stands out for its flaky crust and rich, charred custard.
The pastry comes from the Portuguese pastel de nata. The mark of a good egg tart is a burnt caramelized top, which, according to Margaret Wong Stow, owner of the venerated Margaret’s Cafe, turned off many locals because they believed the char was cancerous.
Tourists often flock to popular establishments like Lord Stow’s and Margaret’s Cafe to get a box of Macau’s world-famous egg tarts fresh out of the oven.
Margaret’s Cafe is located just off Senado Square in the historical city center on 17B Rua do Comandante Mata e Oliveira.
Curry beef offal 咖喱牛杂
Aside from Macau, the Portugese also had a major port in Goa, India, and when the ships arrived from Goa, they brought curry, which was introduced into the local cuisine.
Curry beef offal is an example of how the new ingredient was used by locals.
Offal, particularly intestines, were already a major part of local Chinese cuisine. In Macau, chefs slow-cooked the beef parts with curry and other spices and herbs to mask the pungency of the offal.
The resulting dish is an explosion of flavors and textures, with the chewiness of the meat ensuring the spices linger in the mouth long after the first bite.
Kam Wai Beef Offal on 6 Travessa da Sé uses curry sourced from India.
Pork chop bun 猪扒包
This dish is also called a Macanese hamburger, and like the hamburger, it’s very simple, hearty comfort food.
A pork chop is deep-fried and then sandwiched inside a toasted bun that’s crispy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside. Unlike the hamburger, there are traditionally no other accoutrements—just meat and bread.
Sei Kee Cafe, tucked inside an alleyway on 7-15 Patio de Palha, is a popular spot for pork chop buns and has been making it for more than 40 years.
Customers usually take it here with coffee, which the shop brews in a clay pot.
Black pepper bun 胡椒饼
Okay, we cheated a little. This snack is actually from Fuzhou in southeastern China, but it’s become a popular breakfast item for locals looking for a quick bite on the go.
Ground beef is marinated with a blend of black pepper, white pepper, and five-spice powder. It’s then stuffed in a dough ball and topped with a generous helping of chopped green onions before being baked to order in an oven.
For a good black pepper bun, try Dai Gwan Black Pepper Bun, just across the street from Sei Kee Cafe on Patio de Palha.
Milk pudding 双皮奶
In Chinese, this dessert literally translates to “double skin milk,” and its name comes more from the process than how the dish actually looks.
The first layer of skin forms when milk is boiled and cooled. The milk is then mixed with sugar and egg white, and then steamed to make a pudding. This is the so-called “second layer.”
This dessert is popular in Hong Kong and other nearby cities in the Cantonese-speaking region.
One store in Macau, Leitaria I Son on 1-7 Rua Leste do Mercado Sao Domingos, claims to have been perfecting its recipe for more than 150 years—and it attracts long lines despite its higher-than-average price for milk pudding.