Monday, February 25, 2013

A foodie goes to Macau ( Part 1 )

Macau known as the " Las Vegas of Asia " has been a tourist destination of a lot of people who love to gamble. Macau was a former Portuguese Colony and now a Special Administrative Region in China just like Hong Kong. It has both the influences of Chinese and Portuguese Culture. 90% of the people residing here are Chinese and the rest are mixed races called Macanese ( Chinese with a mix of Portuguese ). There are lots of hotels on the island where you will be able to find one that is affordable for your budget. Compared with its sister city Hong Kong, Macau is a small place, but there are lots of places to visit,  good food to taste and things to do in Macau. The best way to get around Macau if you don't want to walk is to grab the free hotel shuttles. Their shuttle buses return to the main bus terminal and you can catch a different hotel bus to reach the opposite side of town.

In my recent trip to Macau, I traveled with my cousin and her best friend who are food lovers like me. We stayed at The Buckingham which is located very near the Old Taipa Village. Everyday we would walk to Old Taipa Village square to catch a hotel shuttle bus to bring us to Galaxy Hotel.

Since we do not gamble, we enjoyed our stay experiencing the excellent food Macau has to offer. I was able to taste Portuguese, Macanese and Cantonese cuisine.

Our first stop was a tiny Portuguese restaurant called CORTO. It's a small restaurant along Rua do Regedor located in the Old Taipa Village. As we entered the restaurant  I felt like I was in someone's kitchen. The ambience was very cozy. After glancing at their menu ( most menus in the restaurants have a picture of the dish for quick reference ) we had:

Baked Clams with wine sauce and lemon.

Grilled Macau Sole with a tangy tamarind sauce -- a must try in this restaurant.

The best dish which I thought was really a clincher was the Baked Bacalao with cheese ( Bacalao or Bacalhau com Natas ). This dish is one of the most popular cod dishes that you'll find served at traditional Portuguese restaurants. Bacalhau com Natas is like a lasagna made of cod. It includes layers of cod fish, onions, dices fried potatoes, and lots of creamy deliciousness.

After lunch we walked to KOI KEI Bakery on Rua de Cunha. I was able to try their famous Portuguese egg tarts ( or pastel de nata ).

These Portuguese egg tarts was one of my favorite desserts during this trip.  It is a traditional Portuguese custard pastry that consists of custard in a creme brulee-like consistency caramelized in a flaky puff pastry case. It is best eaten while it still warm, it was so delicious!!

Koi Kei is a great bakery offering a variety of candies, almond cookies, lots of varieties of beef and pork jerky. It is so very popular with the Hong Kongese, Taiwanese and Chinese -- and it can be a mess trying to get inside when it is busy. But that is part of the shopping experience !!! They have " free tasting " -- you can try some of the many cake/pastry samples they have. For beef jerky lovers --there is always a lady stationed at the front near the meats who is eager to let you try as many types as you like. My favourite was the little piglet jerky and the wild boar jerky.

As for the almond cookies, they are very popular with the locals and tourists -- I found them too chalky for my taste preferences. In Manila -- we have a local cookie ( called araro cookies ) that tastes similar to these cookies. I personally enjoyed them with coffee, complimenting their normal chalky texture with a bit of moistness. I love almonds and these little cookies always taste good to me.

Later that day we took the hotel shuttle and went to the Senado Square.  It is Macau’s Famous Landmark, together with it is the “Street Of Happiness” or also known popularly as “San Ma Lo”.

Aside from its old historic buildings, what distinguishes Senado Square is the wave-patterned mosaic tiles of black and white stones brought to life by Portuguese experts. The Senado Square is considered as one of the most popular historical sites in Macau. Situated at the heart of  Macau Peninsula, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was the seat of power for the Portuguese as they ruled over the country for more than a hundred years. Visitors can also find a large array of souvenir shops. The square is surrounded by a group of colorful buildings painted in white, yellow, pink, green, or brown. Most of them are three-storey buildings with arched windows, doors and corridors.

As you walk down the pedestrian-only streets, the smell of meat, savory noodle soup, freshly baked bread and pastries would greet your senses.  It is an exhilirating experience. There were long queues at the fast food outlets -- To get a cup of coffee at Starbucks or Gloria Jean would take 30 minutes after you place your order at the counter. The whole place was filled with people --- you could not even get a seat at the square itself...

We ended up buying some fruits and roasted chestnuts then headed for the Cathedral of Macau.

The Cathedral is one of the most important churches in Macau, yet is quite conservatively decorated on both the inside out outside.

Just outside Cathedral, there is a tiny square known as Cathedral Square, featuring a small fountain and center cross and some nice tiled murals on the back side of the square.

close up shot of one of the murals ..

After walking around Senado Square we walked back to the designated Galaxy Hotel shuttle stop and headed back to Taipa.

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