I have been a vegetarian since childhood. Food was simple back then. Mom’s haldi wala aloo sabzi and Sindhi kadhi were gorged upon with little thought of the intricate ingredients that went into its flavourful simplicity. When the mango season came, we plucked the ripest ones from the trees and sat right there in the midst of the greens. We squeezed the plump flesh until the juice inside was just the right consistency and then bit out a tiny hole at the bottom to relish the juice for hours on end. A cool nap in the shade of the tree almost always followed. Those simple vegetarian pleasures were enough back then.
And then I grew up, started travelling and everything changed.
While travelling, often I realised how incomplete the experience of being in a country is without savouring the local cuisine. The food of a country is infused with the stories of the people, their culture, their memories, their past and present. And most of the countries I travelled to be it France, Spain, Switzerland, or Turkey, Thailand, Germany; the main dish of the local authentic cuisine was almost always fish, meat or poultry. So a few years ago, while in Turkey I took that call – for the first time I tried the local favourite minced meat and egg plant, and then on a scuba dive certification trip, I sampled the fresh fish in Maldives. Each time I found myself understanding their way of life even better, literally becoming one with the people.
With their blend of light raw food culture of China in the East and the burst of colours and flavours from Portugal in the west; I was intrigued to read about this fusion of styles of cooking. Why I wondered? Were the Chinese bored of their raw food diet?
It all goes back to history. The Portuguese were a strong influence on Macau right from the 1960 to as recent as 1999. This influence marinated itself into the fresh raw sea food of Macau too. It blended itself with the flavours of coconut milk, spices and cooked, baked and roasted to result into the explosion of tastes that makes Macanese fusion food so diverse and inviting, oh this time I think the food of Macau influenced my memories of the place more than any other country I have visited.
The street food, quaint restaurants, fine dining with Portuguese, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Japanese, Italian and more; the variety of the cuisine was overwhelming. Luckily we had Alorino Noruega recommend a host of local favourites.
What a mad time we had at Antonio’s! He came to Macau with the army in the early 70s. So full of stories and drama; so full of heart. Make sure you meet Antonio at his quaint and flavourful restaurant Antonio at Taipa Village. Here he is teaching us how to make the perfect Crep Suzette with lots of whiskey, orange liqueur. Just imagine that blend of flavours on fire!
We began exploring Macau by starting off with the by lanes in and around Senado square by while sampling almond cookies, sweet and sour beef jerky (this needs an acquired taste!) peanut candies (yummy Macanese Chikki, soft crunchy from the outside and gooey from within; please get me a bag of these again when you go!).
Most of the bakeries around have the traditional Portuguese egg tart but the best ones are available at Margaret’s and Lord Stow’s bakeries. There is a subtle difference in the flavour of the pastry and custard within so go try them out and tell me what you think.
When you head out of Macau peninsula towards Taipa, the food street follows you there. Tai Lei Lok Kei in Taipa is a local secret and serves pork buns only till the afternoon; too light and yummy to miss. Taipa food street is also where I came up close and not so personal with the mighty Durian (Do not try this at home!) You see I am crazy about Jack fruit; Durian’s distant cousin. When in season in India, I eat lots and lots of the fresh, plump fruit; I make a savoury sabzi out of the raw fruit. Even the seeds are so yummy I collect the seeds from the fruit and boil it to make a mixed masala vegetable out of that too. (Promise to share recipe or better yet make and bring the next time we meet!)
But a Durian; in an ice cream form at that; I yet have to acquire a taste for that! But right there I was redeemed from the taste of the mighty durian by the Serradura – a local humble desert made of layers upon layers of cream and biscuit crumbs; yummy to taste and a pallet cleanser too.
Another yummy discovery is the light and crispy egg roll. Just about 2 inches in size, it looks more like a wafer version of a waffle. The flavours are similar too but the second you bite into it, the slight sweetness of the filling in the roll melts on your tongue leaving you surprised by its contrasts and wanting for more.
Oh and the special Skrekfast at Sheraton Sands Cotai Central. Did I mention I met my most favourite Toothless (I love dragons! And to meet the most awesome one from the film ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ while snuggling into a yummy breakfast with Shrek, Panda and many more characters from over a dozen Dreamworks films, now that was an experience to remember! It is so ridiculously packed with fun that you just cant help grinning all the way.
Alorino Noruega’s Top 3 Local Secret Picks:
1. Miramar Restaurant, near Westin – For Portuguese food
2. O Santos for clamps (eat with hand and slurp the soup!)
3. O Manel for sea food, grilled sardines, pork ribs, prawns in garlic sauce
Antonio’s Orange Crep suzette was the best
Don’t miss the fresh Oyster with lime or Tabasco as part of the sea food buffet at Rossio restaurant, MGM Macau
Antica Trattoria for Yummy fresh fish and Italian cuisine
Indian Spice for the best tandoori fish and authentic Indian Food (I don’t know if this has something to do with the restaurant per say but I found the Indian food here even better than most restaurants I have dined at in India. Kudos to the Chef!)
A Lorcha first – yummy Macanese chilli garlic shrimp and African Chicken was eaten here among other glorious food.
Oh I forgot to mention the wine. Street food sans wine is ok but practically every meal in Macau was washed down with light, slightly fruity and dry white wine, this one being one of my favourites.