My impressions and funny stories related to food in Macau
The food in Macau is a special adventure, because of the history of the city, it's a special fusion of Portuguese and southern Chinese influences. Some people praise it as amazing, others say it's nothing special. Generally speaking, I was a bit disappointed. Maybe that's because I came from Taiwan, which really has some of the best food in the world, if you ask me. So the first thing I noticed, when I came to Macau, was that there's not so much food on the streets like in Taiwan. Most shops in the historic center are selling branded Swiss watches, sunglasses and clothes. It gets a bit boring after a while, because it's everywhere. But that's because Macau is such a big tourist destination. It's not only the historic sights, that draw masses of people, a lot of the tourists (most of them come from Mainland China) go to Macau for gambling. I saw so many older Chinese guys with golden Rolex watches. But well, that's another story. Let's focus on the food. Allow me to share some photos and stories with you.
The photo above was my the first photo of food in Macau. Walking from Ponte 19 to the famous Senado square, I saw many shops offering this quite common Chinese food. I've seen and eaten this dish in Malaysia and Singapore before and it's really yummy. And very fulling. I haven't tried this dish here.
Before my trip to Macau, I've read a lot about the famous dishes here, such as the dry and salted cod fish named bacalhau, the pork chop bun, the Portuguese-styled chicken or the Portuguese egg tart, but I only tried the latter, which became one of my favorite dishes in Macau. So between those shops that sell all kinds of branded stuff, you can find restaurants and hawkers, but only few and far less than Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore. And most of them sell something like the Malaysian lok lok, just it looks a bit different, honestly, it wasn't so appealing to me.
But aside from hawkers, there are many other modern restaurants of all kinds, that sell Asian and Western food, but the price is higher of course. There are also many McDonald's restaurants, a very big one can be found on the famous Senado Square and opposite of it is a Starbucks. Let me share some of my stories related to food in Macau.
1 Bistro Burger: Local fast food
The first day when I arrived here, I was a bit lost. I wasted a lot of time until I finally found my hostel. I dropped my luggage in the room and went back to the Senado square to walk around and look for food. It was late and I didn't want to go too far from the hostel area, I was afraid to get lost again. After an hour of walking around, I found a nice little hamburger place located in a small side street near the Senado square. The pictures of their food made my mouth watery. So I ordered a double cheese and it looked like this.
There was a girl, who took my order. She spoke English, she was very nice and smiled all the time. She chatted with a bunch of friends and they all spoke Mandarin (most people in Macau speak Cantonese). So I guess she was from the Mainland. Anyway, I had to wait like 15 min, because her friends all ordered some burgers. There was a guy inside who grilled the meat for quite a while. But it was really worth the wait, because I got a big juicy solid burger, with real meat, real chese, real vegetables and real bread, unlike... you know.. the golden arches thingy. So anyway, I was very full that evening.
2 雄成食店: Common Macanese restaurant
The next day I woke up pretty late. Before I got ready to go out, it was nearly noon. It was almost lunch time and I was really hungry. The most typical sight in Macau are local restaurants in the traditional neighborhoods, that look something like this:
These places are everywhere and sometimes there's only a small door and window from the outside, but inside is like a big room with many locals eating their lunch. The food is simple and cheap, but I never saw tourists in such places. I wonder why? Well, I wanted to go and try food in one of these restaurants. I remembered there is one very near my hostel. After taking a look and giving it a little tought, I decided to do it.
Upon entering you have to choose from various dishes, it's like a buffet. The waitress puts the food on your plate for you. I just pointed with the finger what I wanted: Vegetables, yams, pork, chicken foot and fish. Soon my small plate was full and I wanted to pay. But she directed me to go inside and eat first. So while in Taiwan you order and pay first, in Macau you order and pay when you leave in such restaurant. I don't know, if that's the case in everywhere in Macau, but it was in this one. I was the only foreigner in that restaurant. The rest was locals, a mix of elderly and some workers. It was quite noisy and I've noticed that I stole the spotlight for a brief moment, because some people talked about me. I sat on a chair and started to eat, but then I noticed that other people have rice and tea. I used sign language to ask the waitress where I can get it. She brought me the tea, but pointed the finger to the entrance to get my bowl of rice. I saw many locals also pointing fingers in order to help me. I finally got my rice and sat down and started to eat.
The dish was nothing special, actually not particulary yummy. I've had similar dishes in Taiwan, that tasted way better. But the only thing that did make me feel a bit uneasy was the dirty tea pot. I was a bit disgusted, when I saw the spout. It looked like they stuck something like duct tape on it or maybe it was just a rubber. It didn't look very clean and I had fears, that my stomach won't be well later that day (luckily I was fine). And if you see clearly in the cup with the tea, there are few rice grains inside! How did that happen? O_o Damnit, I still drank that tea, haha. But it didn't taste as good as in Taiwan. Now, most of you know that I usually don't complain about the food I eat or the restaurants I visit, but this place was really a challenge for me. I finished the whole dish, because I was very hungry. The rice was very fulling. The fish was not bad either, same goes for the veggies. The best part were those pork meat balls, they tasted really good. The rest was plain, I didn't get any mouthgasms, like Manju would say ;)
Well, the fun wasn't over, when I finished my dish. I had no idea, how much this would cost. Everything was in Chinese, but there were some numbers of the prices, varying from 11 to 14 Patacas (which is about 1.1 -1.4€). I took out my coins and there was about 17 Patacas in my hand. I went to the waitress and she started to take my coins one by one and guess what? She took all of them and nodded as if that was the correct price. Wow, how can that be? I had exactly the right price in my hand. I'm so great, haha. Oh, wait, what if I had 22 Patacas in my hand, I guess that would also be the correct price. I guess she ripped me off a little, but I was fine with it. I went out with a smiling face and thought how good that I haven't paid with the 20 Patacas bill.
3 Margaret's Café e Nata: I tried the famous egg tarts
After a long day of walking around half of Macau, I decided to have a coffee and a snack. I found a nice little place in the business district, very close to the famous hotel Grand Lisboa.
The place is very small, you order food inside, but you eat and drink outside. It can get very crowded, though. So I went inside and had no clue how to order. I observed other people and tried to copy the way they do it. There were two queues, one for the egg tarts and one for other pastries and bread. I went straight to the egg tarts and told the waitress I want two pieces, but she pointed the finger to the cashier. I had to go back in like and I saw that people first order at the cashier and pay. Totally opposite from the restaurant I went before. So I ordered two egg tarts and a coffee, paid and got my receipt and a number. Then I went back to that lady, who checked my receipt and finally gave me the egg tarts. I went outside, sat down and soon after the waitress brought my coffee (a cappuccino). She shouted something in Cantonese, but since it looked like a Cappuccino, I showed her my number and she gave it to me.
These egg tarts are really delicious! I ate so many of them during my time in Macau and the price can vary from 5.5 to 12 Patacas per piece (or 55c to 1.2€) . The usual price is 7 Patacas and you can easily eat 2 pieces, because they're very small. They always keep them in a warm place, because they taste the best, when they're warm. The cappuccino was also good, not as good as in Slovenia though, but it still tasted a bit like the coffee we drink in Europe. So apart from the unfriendly service, the food and drinks were really good here.
4 Food at various day markets
During my long walks from the Senado square all the way to the A-Ma Temple, I saw various small day markets, but I would not try the food there. Compared to Taiwan's old traditional neighborhoods, Macau's day markets in similar areas don't have such high standards for hygiene. Some parts really looked dirty and the food did not appeal to me. Interestingly, I didn't see many, only few. The Macanese lifestyle is very different from the one in Taiwan.
5 Food in Macau: My conclusions
I hope you got a little insight on the food in Macau. The stress is on little. I didn't have a lot of time (nor money) to check out tons of restaurants with all kinds of food. But I'm not a food critic, I'm just a backpacker and I always try to eat cheap and local food in Asia. Most of the time it tastes the best, much better than overpriced restaurants, that make the food look good, but then you get disappointed. From my experience, if you go to Macau, don't go only because of the food. You better go to Taiwan, Malaysia or Singapore for that. But hey, taste is so subjective and who knows, maybe you will love the food. Most people however go to Macau, because of the historic center with the famous sights and the casinos. For that, Macau trumps all the before mentioned countries.
THESE ARE THE MUST-TRY FOODS IN MACAU: Portuguese style chicken (葡國雞) as the main dish, the Portuguese egg tarts (蛋挞) and the ginger bean curd (薑汁撞奶) as desserts and the pork chop bun (豬扒包) as a snack. Try to avoid stalls with questionable hygiene and not so clean day markets.
[My MACAU page][All photos by MKL, 2010]