Part of what makes Macao one of the Far East’s most exciting destinations comes from its location on China’s southern coast, just a one-hour ferry ride from the bright lights and skyscrapers of Hong Kong. The Portuguese arrived here in the 16th century, the natural harbour becoming the stop-off of choice for ships arriving from the West, bringing new spices and ingredients from Europe, India, Africa and beyond.
A Special Administrative Region of China since 1999, this heady cocktail of global influences has created a thriving and diverse gastronomic scene. In 2017, this led to recognition from UNESCO, which marked Macao as a Creative City of Gastronomy.
So if you’re looking for a far-flung foodie destination with a difference, check out these five reasons to visit Macao.
Five reasons for foodies to visit Macao
Local flavours like no other
Macanese cuisine is reflective of its history, beautifully combining flavours from China and Portugal, as well as India, Africa and Southeast Asia to create unique dishes you won’t find anywhere else. One of the most famous is African chicken – a sumptuous, aromatic dish flavoured with chilli and garlic in a coconut basting sauce, found in restaurants and homes all over Macao.
Even more idiosyncratic is the moreish capella, a spiced meatloaf in the shape of a bundt cake, with cheese and Portuguese chouriço. Spicy minced beef and pork minchi is another local favourite, and you can find excellent examples at Restaurante Litoral (261A Rua do Almirante Sérgio) and Riquexó (69 Avenida Sidonio Pais).
From Portugal with love
Authentic Portuguese fare isn’t hard to come by in Macao. The peninsula is packed with many pastel-tiled eateries, so much so that when you’re sat in one chowing down on tender, salted cod bacalhau, it’s easy to forget you’re in Asia. Portugália (5 Rua dos Mercadores, Taipa) serves up some of the best steak in town, while the quaint stylings of Clube Militar de Macau (975 Avenida da Praia Grande) make for elegant surroundings in which to sample cod croquettes and fine Portuguese wines.
The unofficial king of the Portuguese scene is award-winning chef António Coelho, who lends his first name to his vibrant restaurant (7 Rua dos Clerigos, Taipa). Try the signature flaming homemade sausage, octopus salad and, of course, variations on the sainted bacalhau.
Gateway to China
Unsurprisingly, great Chinese food is never in short supply in Macao, particularly dim sum. Step back in time at the Long Wa Teahouse (3 Rua Norte do Mercado Almirante Lacerda), one of Macao’s few remaining traditional Cantonese teahouses. Its functional 60s aesthetic belies its culinary riches, which include steamed pork dumplings, steamed beef and water chestnut meatballs, and pork ribs. The Plaza Restaurant (2/F, Edf Xin Hua, Rua de Nagasaki, Porto Exterior) or Federal Restaurant (2-90 R. da Encosta, Porto Exterior) are two more excellent but inexpensive dim sum options.
Street food gems
Macao’s snack game is strong, with an array of famed local delicacies. Chief among them is the iconic pork chop bun. Its appearance may not be particularly Instagrammable, but the succulent pork fillets soaked in a secret marinade and served in a soft bun are not to be missed. Tai Lei Loi Kei (35 Rua Correria da Silva, Taipa), in atmospheric Taipa Village, serves some of the best.
Meanwhile, the sweet-toothed once again have Portugal to thank for another local favourite. Head to Lord Stow’s Bakery (1 Rua do Tassara, Coloane) to sample its renowned creamy pastéis de nata-style custard tarts.
Dining with stars
Macao’s diminutive 13 square miles are home to some 19 Michelin-starred restaurants. Jade Dragon (Level 2, The Shops at The Boulevard, City of Dreams, Estrada do Istmo), under the stewardship of executive chef Kelvin Au Yeung, received a coveted third Michelin star this year thanks to its exquisite menu of Cantonese specialities, joining Robuchon au Dôme and The Eight, both found in the Grand Lisboa hotel, as one of the highest-ranked restaurants in the world.
And when you’ve eaten your fill of all these delicious food experiences, there’s still plenty to explore and enjoy in Macao, from the beautiful architecture of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Historic Centre of Macao to the bright lights of the Cotai area and the green countryside, beaches and relaxed vibe of Coloane in the south. What are you waiting for?