For the well-travelled foodie, it might be hard to find dishes you haven’t tried before, but Macanese cuisine will likely be an exception. Despite being packed full of flavour and spices, Macanese dishes are still almost only exclusively found in the city itself. Even in Macau, it’s only really local restaurants, outside of the casinos, that serve it. But the uniqueness of the cuisine makes it worth seeking out.
Blending Chinese and Portuguese flavours, Macanese cuisine is widely considered the world’s first fusion food, and this unusual culinary legacy played a major part in Macau being designated a Creative City of Gastronomy in 2017 by UNESCO.
The origins of Macanese cuisine date back over 450 years. When the Portuguese first started settling in Macau, they wanted to eat the food they ate at home – but they couldn’t, so they were forced to use local ingredients and cooking techniques instead. The cuisine also borrows flavours and spices from other trading posts of the Portuguese Empire at the time, including China, Malaysia and Goa in India. The result is a combination of Chinese-influenced Portuguese cooking methods and ingredients that are predominantly from Southeast Asia, as well as Portugal.
Macanese dishes are mainly homestyle and most local families follow their own recipes. A few of the signature dishes include minchi, a comfort dish that mixes minced beef or pork, diced fried potatoes, onions and soy sauce. Macanese-style Portuguese chicken is also popular and comprises braised chicken, coconut milk and turmeric in a curry. African chicken (a variant of piri-piri chicken from Mozambique) is another signature Macanese dish. The dish consists of tender cooked chicken covered in a peanut, tomato and chilli sauce, sometimes with paprika. It’s a dish that, over the years, has come to represent Macau’s unique and multicultural identity.
If you’re keen to sample some of the best Macanese dishes, head to favourite local restaurants like minchi specialists Riquexo, Portuguese chicken supremos La Famiglia, curry crab masters Restaurante Litoral or APOMAC, a retirement club with a canteen open to the public serving several Macanese classics.
For the height of gastronomic excellence, gourmands should head to the pinnacle of Macau: the dome atop the city’s tallest building, the Grand Lisboa. Here, you’ll find three-Michelin-star Robuchon au Dôme, which offers an exquisite menu of French gastronomic cuisine and stands as a lasting legacy of renowned chef, the late Joël Robuchon. The restaurant is also perfect for wine lovers. The wine list, with its 16,500-plus labels, is the most extensive in the whole of Asia.
If you’re looking for high-end Chinese fare, Michelin-star Lai Heen – located on the 51st floor of The Ritz-Carlton – is just the ticket. Head chef Bill Fu literally takes classic Cantonese dishes to new heights with his visionary and masterfully prepared interpretations.
To sample some of Macau’s best street eats, many of which have won the recommendation of Michelin, head to Taipa Village and in particular Rua do Cunha, a bustling pedestrianised lane packed with food stalls, various snack kiosks and souvenir shops. Stop by Sei Kee Café to try a Macau pork chop bun (sometimes referred to as a Macau hamburger), or scour the stalls for a Macau egg tart – a flaky pastry filled with egg custard and topped with a crispy crème-brûlée-like glaze.
For the freshest produce and local specialities at a bargain, a trip to one of Macau’s food markets is a must. The Macau Food Festival, which is held every November, is the city’s biggest and best. Hosting hundreds of local food merchants as well a variety of international restaurants, the festival is one of Macau’s most popular annual events.
No trip to Macau, however, is complete without a visit to the city’s Red Market. This historic wet market is housed in an impressive three-storey colonial red-brick building and is filled with vendors selling some of the freshest produce in town. The maze-like market is a constant hive of activity and a sensory explosion of sights, smells and noises. It’s a great place to find a bargain and experience the quintessential Asian wet-market culture.
Another great food market location is Food Street at Broadway Macau. Located inside the Galaxy Broadway Resort, it’s an entire street dedicated to selling local specialities and Asian favourites. Based on a traditional Macau hawker-style street market, it features over 40 food stalls. You’ll find local specialities ranging from Macau egg tarts all the way up to Michelin-star eateries such as Tim Ho Wan (dim sum specialist). It’s a great place to come for a stroll while you browse the different menus and take in the different aromas wafting through the air.
Inspired to visit Macau? Learn more at Macao Government Tourism.