Because of its unique history, the cuisine of Macao is a truly unique find. With southern Chinese, Portuguese, and other international influences, Macanese food includes some dishes you might be familiar with—the iconic egg tart is probably one—and others you've likely never heard of. (African chicken, anyone?) Whatever you eat, there are a few dishes that everyone should taste at least once while they're in town. From the iconic egg tarts to some home-cooking favorites, these are the can't-miss dishes of Macao.
You shouldn't leave Macao without trying one of its famous almond cookies, made from crushed almonds and mung bean flour. The result is an embossed, wonderfully crumbly cookie that pairs excellently with coffee. Some even come with savory or sweet fillings, though first-timers may want to stick with the classic version. Almond cookies aren’t frequently found on restaurant menus, but they're still easy to find; keep an eye out for a large woven tray with dozens of cookies resting on it. If you walk by one of Koi Kei Bakery's locations, head inside and sample some cookies before picking out a box for yourself and a box to give as souvenirs.
Egg tarts are another one of Macao’s iconic foods—perhaps the most iconic. Flaky shells are hand-pressed into tins and filled with a thick custard. The sumptuous dessert is excellent by itself or with a cup of coffee. Macao’s egg tarts were created by Englishman Andrew Stow, who set up shop on Coloane, first opening a health food store and later a bakery. In 1990, Stow baked Portuguese favorite pasteis de nata but filled the tart with English custard. Now, 30 years later, the egg tart is a part of the Macao identity and is an almost required tasting of anyone who visits. While you can get eggs tarts all over Macao, the best place to try them is at one of Lord Stow’s locations.
Using a blend of spices and cooking techniques from China, Portugal, and the African continent, this is the ultimate fusion dish. Marinated chicken is topped with a thick, peanut-based curry. African chicken can be found in most Macanese restaurants, and while recipes vary, all usually include peanut butter, coconut milk, paprika, and five-spice powder. Try it for yourself at Restaurante Litoral along with a pitcher of their sangria.
Sure, beef jerky is available all over the world, but jerky in Macao is different from what you're likely used to. Rather than tough strips of dried meat, Macanese jerky is thick, tender, and super meaty. Pieces are cut off large slabs of cured meats and come in a wide variety of flavors. You'll see tables filled with the stuff at storefronts in all the popular areas. You can sample a few before picking your favorite, at which point an employee will cut off your desired amount. Just be sure to eat it all before your flight home, as you won't be able to take it through customs.
Minchi is a Macanese dish of ground meat cooked with molasses and soy sauce, served with potatoes, rice, and a fried egg. Because it's so easy to make, this dish is prevalent in home-cooking, and there are dozens of variations on it. Break open the egg yolk and mix well before taking your first bite.
Portuguese Fried Rice
While there's nothing explicitly Portuguese about Portuguese fried rice, it is a decidedly European take on the classic Chinese dish. The preparation can vary widely, but Portuguese fried rice will almost always have black (or green) olives in it along with Portuguese chorizo. Other additions include bell peppers and shrimp. Give it a try at A Lorcha, close to A-Ma Temple.
Serradura is a classic dessert created in Portugal but made famous in Macao. It's a simple dish of layered whipped cream and crushed Marie cookies (a popular Portuguese cookie), served chilled. Serradura is frequently offered in Portuguese restaurants and some Macanese restaurants. Each place prepares theirs differently, and all are delicious, though Albergue 1601's frozen take is worth seeking out.
Pork Chop Bun
A crispy pork chop sandwiched in a warm bun—what's not to love? This favorite local snack food is a must-try while you're in town. The best place to get a taste is at Cafe Tai Lei Loi Kei in Taipa. The storefront has been selling the sandwich since the '90s and is a hot spot for locals and tourists alike. There will likely be a line, but the wait is worth it.