Portuguese delights in food haven
BOASTING a fine mix of local and international fare, the city of Macau is a food haven that will satisfy the cravings of any visiting tourist.
Even one's budget will not stand in the way, as food choices range from street-side snacks to gourmet restaurant cuisine.
For those in search of pocket-friendly food haunts, the streets of nearby islands Coloane and Taipa - reachable via a short bus ride from the Macau peninsula - are ideal places to savour Macau's signature dishes.
Topping the list of must-try local snacks are the famous pasteis de nata, or Portuguese egg tarts, and pork-chop buns.
With its crispy pastry shell and rich, sweet egg custard, the Portuguese egg tart is best eaten warm and is the perfect snack for those with a sweet tooth.
On the other hand, the pork-chop bun makes for a savoury treat, with its crispy crust and juicy, tender pork filling.
The most popular Portuguese egg-tart store is Lord Stow's Bakery located in Coloane Island. It was opened in 1989 by Englishman Andrew Stow, often said to be the inventor of the Macau version of the Portuguese egg tart.
Mr Wong Chek Poh, 52, who went there with his wife, said the tarts are not to be missed. "Lord Stow's Portuguese egg tarts have come to be quite iconic of Macau and rightly so because they taste so good," said the private tutor.
In Taipa Island, a small rundown store called Tai Lei Loi Kei is said to sell the best pork-chop bun in Macau.
The store is symbolic of the laid-back food culture that permeates the streets of Taipa Village, said Mr Wong, a self-proclaimed foodie.
At roadside stalls lining the village's Rua da Cunha - affectionately known as Food Street - tourists can choose from a variety of Macau delicacies, including almond cake, egg roll and peanut candy.
It was Mr Wong's photo of a bakery employee packing almond cakes by hand which won him the top prize in the local-snacks category of the Experience Macau Photo Contest organised by Singapore Press Holdings' online portal, AsiaOne.
"I thought it was done with a machine but was surprised to find them arranging it one by one and removing those that were out of shape," he said. It showed the authenticity of the food preparation in Macau.
And it is not just the food preparation that is authentic. Over the centuries, the city has also developed a unique cuisine that combines elements of Portuguese, Chinese, Indian and even Malay cooking.
Called Macanese cuisine, it is served in restaurants along Rua Almirante Sergio in the Macau peninsula and in Taipa Island.
Examples of unique dishes include African chicken grilled with Portuguese piri piri peppers, and a hearty stew of Chinese vegetables and different meats called tacho.
Owing to its former status as a colony, Macau is also popular for its Portuguese dishes such as caldo verde, or green vegetable soup, baked duck, and seafood rice.
Restaurants serving such cuisine are said to be a hit with tourists seeking to experience a little bit of Portugal in an Asian environment.
They can be found close to A-Ma Temple, the city centre and other areas within the main island, as well as in Coloane and Taipa.
Mr David Wong, 56, a finalist of the Experience Macau Photo Contest, said he intends to sample Portuguese food when he next visits Macau.
"There were just too many food choices so I missed out on the Portuguese cuisine," he said.
"I will have to make up for that the next time."