What to eat in Macau
African chicken, baked egg tarts, samosas, pork-and-olive fried rice. In Macau, Portugal meets China with a dash of southeast Asia and a sprinkling of Africa. Macanese cuisine is, quite literally, a blend of all the places that Portuguese traders visited along the 16th century maritime route from East Asia to Lisbon.
Don't be surprised to find European dishes like salted cod and stewed rabbit followed by pork buns and rice on any menu here.
A stunning mixture of foods that are at once familiar and exotic, Macanese cooking effortlessly combines ingredients like tumeric, ginger, papaya and curry with the grounded familiarity of meat and fish grilled to crispy perfection over charcoal.
Here's a hit list of the best things to eat in Macau.
Portuguese fried rice
Fried rice like never before: hopped up on European ingredients. This moreish rice is infused with prawns, bacon bits, egg, asparagus, chicken and olives.
The Macanese version of the pastel de nata is a light, fluffy affair with less sugar than its Lisbon counterpart. This makes it all-too-easy to chow down several, especially when fresh from the oven.
What it says on the tin, except so much more delicious. Hefty doses of fresh garlic, heaps of butter and a generous splash of white wine, all flash stir-fried into a thickened, irresistible sauce.
Pork chop bun
Macau's favourite snack food is perfect in its simplicity: a fresh Portuguese bread roll stuffed with a gleaming fried pork chop. No extras needed - this bad boy does the job without frills.
Spicy charcoal-grilled chicken
Succulent whole chicken grilled over charcoals until the skin is delightfully crispy and burnt around the edges, then chopped Chinese-style and served with french fries.
Fresh clams stir-fried in a wok with spring onion, generous doses of garlic and white wine make these among the best you’ll have in your life (really).
The name of this dessert means ‘sawdust’ but don’t be fooled: it’s a rich vanilla custard layered and topped with crushed Marie biscuits and served chilled.
Sea bass, sardines, bacalhau (cod): you name the fish and they will grill it in Macau. This is almost always done on an open-air charcoal grill and the fish are served whole, with head, eyeball, crisp skin and all.
Fresh octopus, clams, hunks of cod, more clams, crab and mussels are thrown into a thick broth, oftentimes with rice and fresh vegetables like asparagus and Chinese greens. The result is this stew that is seriously difficult to stop eating.
A whole chicken, cooked in a luxurious sauce of garlic, tomato, piri piri chillis and coconut milk, this dish is a not-so-spicy version of piri piri chicken or Brazliian barbecued chicken.
Another favourite Macanese dessert: almond cookies are made fresh and sold in shops and restaurants on every street corner in Macau. A box of these makes a perfect Macanese souvenir.
Macau’s oddest-sounding dish and perhaps its most intriguing fusion: pork and beef mince stir-fried with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cumin and onions and served either with fried potatoes or over rice. A fried egg is often added over the top. Fusion comfort food at it’s finest.
A Portuguese favourite: scallops served on the shell, smothered in a cheesy, creamy sauce and baked until the cheese bubbles brown.
Macau doesn’t produce any wine of its own, but because of a lack of import tax on alcohol, you can find fantastic varieties of European wines here, and tastes fall especially to Portuguese wine thanks to the long history between the two places.
Megan Eaves is Lonely Planet's North Asia Destination Editor and an unabashed eater of food. You can follow her on Twitter @megoizzy.
Megan travelled to Macau with support from the Macau Government Tourist Office (macautourism.gov.mo). Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.