By Richard Frisbie
Macau, on the South China Sea, was once the center of the Portuguese colonial trade routes. Now it is the gambling capital of the world with a unique cuisine that is a complex amalgam of ingredients and techniques the Portuguese collected from Brazil to Malaysia. When combined with Cantonese and other regional cooking – true fusion food was created. Today, the once obscure regional cooking is growing in popularity in the U.S., thanks to Chef Abraham Conlon’s famous Chicago restaurant, Fat Rice, and his recent Macanese cookbook. The Macau Institute for Tourism’s culinary school was founded with the intent to preserve Macau’s unique cuisine. In two decades, the institute has grown into several schools that include a teaching restaurant and hotel. While the lodging in Macau can be glitzy and over‐the‐ top (think Las Vegas on steroids – a gilded mashup of Venice and Versailles), the institute’s Pousada de Mong‐Ha is a simple, quiet place to stay while visiting Macau. Combine that with visits to its teaching restaurant, which serves old‐style dishes with a contemporary flair, and you’ll be helping the next generation of chefs and hoteliers to learn their craft as you enjoy great food and service. An early institute instructor and the founding director of the Macanese Culinary Association, Austrian chef Raimund Pichlmaier learned the cooking of Macau by watching his Macanese mother‐in‐law. He taught me how to make African Chicken, one of the most famous dishes of Macau. I should say he showed me, because his method of teaching was to let the students watch him cook and then encourage them to recreate the dish. There were no books or recipes involved. While curriculum and teaching techniques have changed considerably, the African Chicken is still a classic dish. Basically, it is a half chicken marinated in a coconut and citrus sauce that is grilled, with the sauce thickened and served over it. Shallots, chilies, tarragon and paprika really punch up the sauce’s flavour. Some modern recipes add peanuts, but in my opinion they just muddy the flavour. There are a few family‐owned restaurants in Macau that epitomize the local cuisine. Restaurante Fat Siu Lau (you must try the marinated pigeon) and A Vencedora are both century‐old restaurants, while Solmar Restaurant and Riquexo Café are decades younger, but all preserve the classic Macanese cuisine. By now it is apparent that my interest lies in the older Macanese dishes, but, when in Macau, I strongly suggest you taste the roots of Macanese cuisine and then experience the classic Cantonese cooking (especially the dim sum at The Eight!) that Macau is equally famous for.