While we are not “foodie” bloggers, we must admit that we love a good meal — or even a great snack! Since living here in mainland China for over 8 months now, we sometimes crave unique flavors and international food variety (yeah — it’s lacking here!).
So imagine our delight when we took a weekend trip to Macau and realized what a “foodie” town it is. From Asian delicacies, Portuguese specialties, and savory spices & flavors from all around the globe, Macau is an absolute treat for travelers who are also food lovers!
Why Is There So Much Awesome Food in Macau?
While the original people in Macau were Chinese, the Portuguese really made Macau what it is today. The Portuguese were in the area trading, and began using Macau as a trading post. Over the years, they gained some autonomy and control of the area, with the permission of the Chinese.
Being the world-wide traders that they were, the Portuguese not only brought their own flavors and cuisine from home, but they also brought many other spices, ingredients, and cooking styles from many of their other colonies around the world!
Because of this, Macau really is a foodie paradise. Even though it is very much Chinese, the food in Macau varies widely. In addition to traditional Chinese and Cantonese dishes, you can find Portuguese dishes, African spices, and European flavors. Bakeries galore can be found all over Macau serving local specialties, and many types of coffee shops and wine bars can be found around town too.
You would be pressed to find another destination in the world with such a worldly variety of tastes at a wide range of budgets.
As a result of this food culture, there are a number of food tours in Macau. But you can also stop by the tourist office in Senado Square and pack up a “Taste of Macau” booklet for more information, and recommended dishes and restaurants!
Over hundreds of years, this mixture of cooking traditions and ingredients evolved into a distinct Macanese cuisine. Seasonings from Europe, South America, Africa, South East Asia and China are blended to create these unique tastes. Common cooking styles include baking, grilling, and roasting and popular seasonings include turmeric, coconut milk, cinnamon, and balichao.
Recommended Eats in Macau
We loved our weekend visit to Macau so much, that we even went a second time in the same month…partially because we didn’t have time to sample much of the food. Still, even after two weekend trips we haven’t been able to taste it all yet. But here are some of our top eats, and recommendations from locals.
Portuguese Egg Tart
A trip to Macau is not complete without one of these savory treats! These rich tarts are thick, with a perfectly buttery flavor and flaky crust. The tarts here seem to have a perfect crust on the top, baked until just golden – but not burned.
You can find these tarts all over Macau, especially in the many bakeries and along the streets. They are inexpensive and make for a great snack anytime of the day – but beware, they are addicting and surely not good for your waistline!
Pork Chop Buns
Another popular street food, these are can be found in many quick service restaurants around town – especially in the old historic area of Macau. While the primary style is a thickly grilled piece of well marinated / spiced up pork between a crispy baked baguette, there are a few other styles too. You will see people devouring these all over town.
We found some really yummy ones one morning near the cathedral in the heart of the old town. Served on a thick, soft and sweet pineapple bun, we were in heaven at the unique flavor combinations of the sweet with the tangy spices of the pork chop. A great breakfast!
This traditional dish includes grilled chicken and piri piri sauce – which is a unique combination of herbs and piri piri peppers. There are many ways of preparing the dish, it may be rubbed on the chicken, or poured over the chicken. It’s usually accompanied with rice.
This savory dish won our hearts! Tender chunks of chicken smothered in a curry-like sauce…but not tasting of curry! Rather, this dish has a unique mix of spices that seemed to include some cinnamon, turmeric, and coconut milk.
The sauce also included veggies such as potatoes and corn, as well as topping it off with olives and raisins, and a few slices of spicy Portuguese sausage! This combination gave it even more substance, as well as a mixture of spicy, tart and sweet flavors!
I can’t tell you how delightful this combination was!
This appetizer is served at many restaurants and a favorite by both locals and tourists. It’s a croquette (bread) with minced bacalhau meat and mashed potato.
This dish is more expensive, and influenced by Indian flavors. It includes a whole crab and blends a variety of spices with a coconut milk sauce. In fact, it’s loaded with sauce…and flavor. It’s a big dish, so it’s best to share with a few people. It is often served with rice so you can mix with the curry sauce.
Portuguese Style Rice (Regular or with Seafood)
Similar to a paella, it’s boiled with tomato puree and lots of meat and vegetables. The traditional includes ham and Portuguese sausage (which is tasty!) but there is also a seafood version that includes shrimp, mussels, octopus, etc. Some restaurants will use cream for more of a creamy taste rather than tomato.
Roast Duck Rice
Rich duck meat on top of rice, garnished with sausage and bacon then baked in the oven. While it sounds heavy, it tastes surprisingly lean and a favorite of many visitors to Macau!
You can find these little treats all over at the bakeries around Macau – many of them handmade (and if you are lucky you can watch them making the cakes). These traditional cookies of Macau are crunchy and full of almonds! You can buy them all over town, and many bakeries will have free samples set out for you to try. Definitely take them up on the offer.
The almond cakes are a just the right of sweetness, but they are quite dry. So be sure that you have some water or another beverage nearby, because you will need a sip to wash it down.
On that note, you will notice bakeries all over Macau — literally, 3 next to each other and across the street! They are filled with yummy snacks (many of which are mentioned here) as well as other delicious goodies. Free samples are offered everywhere, so feel free to indulge yourself. They also make great souvenir gifts to bring back home.
Yes, jerky. Just like the egg tarts and almond cakes, you can find various kinds of jerky all over town in shops and along the street. There are many varieties available, including beef, chicken and pork. Go ahead and have a taste!
Balls on Skewers
Okay, so it seems like you can find just about anything on a skewer in Asia. In particular, fish balls are one of the most popular items to snack on. However, I’m not a seafood fan myself.
So I was ecstatic when in the old Taipa village on Macau’s south island when we found balls not made of fish, but rather mushed potato surrounding cheese! Pouring some Thai sweet chili sauce on the side and nibbling on these with a small wooden skewer made for an awesome snack!!!
While maybe not traditional, Pattington’s House of Pancakes definitely provides a unique culinary experience! We popped in here during a morning rainstorm, thinking some hot pancakes were in order for brunch. But what we found was the coolest and craziest combinations of pancakes we had seen…and wow did they taste awesome!
I had the California option, which was actually sweet corn pancakes, with a side of maple bacon wrapped around avocado! Josh went all out with a concoction that included beans, a fried egg, sausages…oh and a side of mashed potatoes and gravy! Heavy, but wow he was in heaven!
Many of their unique combinations come in a sweet desert form, with ice cream, fruits, and other sweet sauces. A very cool place for brunch or just a sweet snack. Get a few of them and share with friends!
Dining in Macau
The great thing about a visit to Macau is that there is a wide variety of dining options available. Many of the most popular items in Macau can be found on the street, including egg tarts, cookies, and pork buns. You will find these throughout town, but especially in the local areas and historic districts (such as Senado Square and old Taipa village). These are really cheap, and tasty eats!
There are also moderately priced restaurants as well as high end restaurants serving the best cuisine and incredible Portuguese wine. There are also bigger international chains at some of the nicer casinos, such as the Hard Rock at the City of Dreams or Morton’s in the Venetian.
One moderate restaurant that we really loved (and went there 3 times in one weekend) was the Café THS Honolulu. There are many of them around Macau, but we really loved their casual atmosphere — huge menu, and affordable prices! Perhaps this is what you call comfort food in Macau?!?!
We highly recommend this restaurant if you visit Macau.