Why Macau Was Designated A Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO

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Photo of Matthew Keegan
29 May 2018

Macau has been recognised by UNESCO for its 400-plus-year-old Macanese culinary legacy and emerging status as one of Asia’s leading culinary destinations.

While Hong Kong has long been regarded as the culinary capital of Asia, neighbouring Macau has largely been overlooked. But that could be about to change, because last November Macau was officially designated a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO. Alongside Chengdu and Shunde, Macau is one of only three cities in China to be conferred this prestigious title.

Cities are awarded the title, not in recognition of the number of upscale restaurants, but more because of a city’s culinary heritage.

With a culinary legacy dating back more than 400 years, Macau is often regarded as being home to the world’s first fusion food: Macanese cuisine, which played a pivotal role in UNESCO’s decision.

Macanese dishes | © Urban Kitchen

As a former Portuguese colony, it was in Macau, not Hong Kong or Singapore, where East and West culinary styles first melded to produce a fusion cuisine. Later known as Macanese cuisine, it’s a blend of both Portuguese and Chinese ingredients and cooking techniques. Since the handover of Macau back to Chinese sovereignty in 1999, the cuisine has become a core marker of Macanese culture and in preserving Macau’s East meets West cultural identity.

There are currently 26 cities worldwide that have been designated Creative Cities of Gastronomy by UNESCO. It’s part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network. Established in 2004, the network aims to promote cooperation and shared experience amongst culture-rich cities worldwide throughout a handful of creative fields (from design to film, gastronomy and beyond).

Senado Square | © Macao Government Tourism Office

In Macau’s case, it’s hoped that inclusion in the network will foster new opportunities for global cooperation in the cultural and creative industries. In particular, helping to raise the awareness of the city’s rich culinary heritage and explore how the culinary scene and other cultural aspects can fuse to diversify the economy.

“Macau will cherish this new title and make good use of it to help transform our city into a world centre of tourism and leisure,” said Alex Tam, Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture.

If you’re interested to try signature Macanese dishes, discover some of the top local Macanese restaurants in our Best Places to Try Macanese Cuisine in Macau guide.

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