Down a narrow side street, a stone’s throw from Macao’s bustling Senado Square, a man selling congee – China’s ever-popular staple rice porridge – jumps out from behind a screen to serenade unsuspecting guests. While at first startling, his rendition of some favourite tunes – a daily routine he has been doing for years – soon attracts an admiring audience. At the end of the impromptu performance he states that he likes to bring happiness to the faces of passersby, giving travellers another reason to applaud him.
It’s not surprising that his street leads to what everyone refers to as Happiness Street, namely Rua da Felicidade. Before reaching Happiness Street though, the group of Australians is wooed into a store that offers everything Portuguese, Dova das Concervas; the shelves stacked with imported tinned sardines, displayed as colourfully as the sweets and drinks.
Across the street is a tiny bakery serving the Best Chocolate Cake in the World, the name given to the cake rather than its ranking among chocolate connoisseurs. But it was tasty, nonetheless.
From the time you set out on a walk through such fascinating neighbourhoods, you realise Macao is the City of Gastronomy, its designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy a rightful reward for having such a tantalising mixed-food legacy.
Waiting at the front door of restaurant and private kitchen Belos Tempos on Rua da Felicidade is chef Ana Maria Manhao Sou who prides herself on educating and serving traditional Macanese food, a cuisine considered one of the world’s earliest forms of fusion cuisine. Here, Ana teaches her ‘students’ how to prepare and make Macao’s popular dessert, Serradura, which in English translates to sawdust pudding, a sweet combination of condensed milk, cream and finely crushed biscuit. Soon, the guests tuck into a few other Macanese favourites: African Chicken, Bacalhau (fried fish cakes) and Minchi.
Macao, a 35-minute 55 kilometre drive via shuttle on the newly-opened road link from Hong Kong Airport – the world’s longest over-the-sea bridge – is a former Portuguese enclave which values its cuisine as a tourism draw-card. Its dining options are as contrasting as the prices printed on the menus and blackboards.
Mornings bring congee and accompanying dumplings in the small eateries and traditional tea houses at Long Wa (which overlooks the famous Red Market), while luncheon treats are served inside Alberque or Cantonese fare from the Jade Orchid, inside the Harbourview Hotel.
By night, the food offerings continue, from a fun-filled hot pot experience in the Monsoon Restaurant of Altira Hotel, Cantonese and French fusion cuisine prepared at Le Chine within The Parisian’s very own Eiffel Tower, the flamboyant array of seafood and meat dishes of Meza 9 (the Grand Hyatt) and the casual Portuguese restaurant, O’Manel in Taipa Village.
As a City of Gastronomy, Macao also has its share of Michelin-quality restaurants, among the newest to open is the two-starred Mizumi Restaurant – sophisticated Japanese cuisine with sake pairing – of the Wynn Palace and Voyager by celebrity chef Alain Ducasse, a casual French bistro within the late Zaha Hadid designed hotel, Morpheus.
No-one leaves Macao without sampling the distinctly tasty Macanese egg tarts as prepared by Lord Stow’s, the original bakery in Coloane village. It’s a hive of tourist activity and delicious before or after enjoying a song with a dish of congee.
Learn more about Macao and it’s culinary offering at www.visitmacao.com.au
This content has been produced in partnership with Macao Government Tourism Office and LATTE.