Macanese cuisine is often mistaken for being the same as Portuguese cuisine – it isn’t. Macanese cuisine is a blend of both southern Chinese cuisine and Portuguese ingredients, spices and cooking techniques and has its own set of distinct dishes. It evolved when Macau was a former colony of Portugal and has a 400-year history; many believe it was the world’s first fusion cuisine.
Macanese cuisine is largely a homestyle cooking and can take a long time to prepare. It’s not as readily available in Macau’s restaurants as one might hope or expect. Of all the restaurants that have opened in the city’s casinos over the past decade, there is hardly a single Macanese restaurant among them. However, if you venture beyond the casinos and off the tourist track, you’ll find one or two hidden gems where the soul of Macau lives on, as does its delicious native cuisine. Here are a few of our favourites:
Top of the list has to be this charming restaurant, a family business, run by 102-year-old Aida de Jesus, often dubbed ‘the unofficial godmother of Macanese cuisine’, and her daughter Sonia Palmer. Both ladies are Macanese themselves (of mixed Portuguese and Chinese ancestry), and all the recipes here are family favourites that have been handed down over generations. This is Macanese cuisine at its finest and most authentic. Try Macau’s two national dishes, minchi and African chicken – it’s comfort food and extremely delicious. You’ll see a number of local Macanese families dining here, and it’s one of the few places left in the city that feels authentically Macau. With photos of old Macau decorated on the walls, it’s like stepping back in time – but in a good way.
Riquexo, Songbo Village, 69 Av. de Sidonio Pais, Macau +853 2856 5655
This civil-servant retirement club may not sound or appear like it’s a hotspot for great local food, but for authentic and tasty homestyle Macanese cuisine, it’s hard to beat. The good news is that the canteen here is open to the public, and anybody can drop by for a hearty Macanese meal. Many years of cooking local fare has made chef D. Vitoria one of the best at creating delicious homestyle Macanese dishes and, in particular, the minchi dish here is done to perfection. Prices are very reasonable, too.
Once dubbed ‘the spiritual home of Macanese cuisine’, Litoral is owned by Macau native Manuela Ferreira and specialises in delicious Macanese dishes. Inside, paintings of old Macau hang on the walls, setting the scene for a taste of the real Macau. Standout dishes include the African chicken – a delicious Macanese curry-like concoction that alongside minchi is regarded as the city’s ‘national’ dish. Also worth trying is the curry crab, another Macanese favourite. Alternatively, in cold weather, opt for the tacho, a Macanese stew with pork knuckle, sausage, and many other warming ingredients.