UNESCO has recognised Macanese cuisine for its 400-plus-years of culinary legacy. Macao is now one of the leading culinary capitals of Asia! By Rashima Nagpal

The Portuguese arrived in the territory of Macao in 1557, and brought with them a culinary tradition completely distinct from the Chinese. It was in 1999, when Macao got its independence and became a part of China’s administrative region that its impact was truly realised. A former Portuguese colony, much of the Portuguese culinary heritage had rubbed off on Macao, leading to the birth of the beautiful Macanese cuisine as we know it today.

Largely a mix of Cantonese and Portuguese cooking methods, Macanese is known as the world’s first fusion cuisine. The sea route established by Portugal during the 16th and 17th centuries, further brought to Macao, spices and settlers from Africa, India and Southeast Asia. Macanese Cuisine thus became a potpourri of flavours and aromas.

Macao

Owing to such a culinary heritage, coupled with the influence from Mainland China and other global cuisines, UNESCO has recognised Macao as a Creative City of Gastronomy, alongside seven other cities. The way UNESCO sees it, gastronomy is less about a region’s upscale and critically acclaimed restaurants and more about its culinary heritage; sustainability being the key.

Acknowledging the title, Alexis Tam, the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture of the Macao SAR Government expressed, “Macao becoming a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy is set to offer a contribution to the city that goes beyond gastronomy and tourism, as it will bring in new models of development that recognise creativity as a strategic factor of sustainable development, which we are willing to take advantage of in partnership with other cities and local partners.”

Next time you are in the city, try classic Macanese dishes such as Minchi, made from minced beef with soya sauce, onions and a fried egg, and served with rice or fried potatoes; Cappela, a baked meatloaf made with cheese, black olives and breadcrumbs, topped with crispy bacon; African Chicken made with peanut butter, sweet paprika, and white wine; the other popular staples such as Macanese Chilli Shrimps, Pork Chop Buns, and Egg Tarts. Since this is a cuisine that has evolved naturally in households, it is difficult to find authentic Macanese in restaurants. Some local eateries where you may get the true taste of Macanese cuisine are APOMAC Macao, a civil-servant retirement club, and the new Macanese section called ‘Taste of Tradition’, that features on the menu at Urban Kitchen, a buffet-style restaurant located at Galaxy Macao.

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Macao
Macanese Chilli Shrimps