Restaurante Litoral, Macau

If you have never been to Macau, or Restaurante Litoral, I urge you to get on a plane or ferry this instant.

Macanese food is one of the best little-known cuisines I have come across. It dates back almost 500 years, from when the Portuguese settled on a little peninsula of fishing villages and married into local Chinese families. Over time, the Portuguese-Chinese fusion picked up influences from around Southeast Asia and other colonies in Africa, Goa, and Brazil. One of the best spots in Macau to taste real Macanese cooking is Restaurante Litoral, a beautiful two-storey restaurant on Rua do Almirante Sérgio.

The upstairs dining was enormous (the owners also took over the 2nd floor of the next building), but because of the slideable wooden doors, it still felt intimate. Litoral is a rare restaurant that can be popular with both locals and tourists; my companions were two British expats who have lived in Macau since the early 1980s, and claim this restaurant serves the best Macanese dishes.

Caldo verde (potato and kale soup, in top photo) is similar to the Portuguese original, but instead of kale the locals use the more abundant bok choy. Though like the Portuguese, we doused the tops of our soups with extra olive oil.

Restaurante Litoral also does an amazing tamarind pork. There is a sweet and sour element from the brown sugar and tamarind paste, but the salty shrimp paste and sliced chilies make make it extra pungent and unmistakably Macanese.

Minchi may as well be Macau's official comfort food. It consists of ground beef or pork sautéed with onions, bay leaf, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, and usually paired with crispy potatoes. Litoral adds a runny fried egg on top, giving the meat a delicious oozy sauce.

Another Macanese dish you need to try is curry crab. Usually restaurants will serve a whole crab in curry sauce, but Litoral does all the work of plucking out the crab meat. The bowl also comes with shrimp and quail eggs. The diner only needs to spoon as much as she wants onto her rice, which can be a problem if she loves crab and has little self-control. (Guilty as charged.)

Did I mention Restaurante Litoral, as per Macanese tradition, dishes everything in huge portions?

 

Restaurante Litoral 261A Rua do Almirante Sérgio Macau

_________________________________

More food in Macau:

Fernando's

Restaurante Escada

Pasteleria Koi Kei

_________________________________

Eating in Coloane, Macau

In my previous trips to Macau, I had only explored the Central and Southern parts of Macau island. On Valentine's Day, Jacob and I took another day trip to the former Portuguese colony and headed to a part that wasn't engulfed in casino and resort construction. After crossing the border, we hopped on a free shuttle to Hotel Lisboa, and from there caught a bus to Coloane, Macau's southernmost island.

Coloane is a tiny, laid-back island that is a great antidote to Central Macau's bustling streets. I, for one, was glad to get away from the diesel fumes and noise of motorcycle engines. (Motorcycles were out in full force yesterday, probably Spring Festival vacationers expending last bits of pent-up energy before starting work again.) Coloane Village is a nice place to walk around for an hour and admire the low-lying buildings that fuse Portuguese and Chinese styles. I was reminded of little villages in Lantau and Hong Kong's New Territories, where people leave their doors open and you can peak in and see what locals are eating for lunch, or watching on TV. (Not that I peak, of course.)

Taking a break from walking, we ducked into Lord Stow's Bakery in the main square. In addition to Macanese egg tarts, the bakery also carried chocolate tarts, breads, chocolate puddings, and milk teas. Macanese egg tarts are like Cantonese egg tarts except with more sugar and with a caramelized top. I don't know about the bakery's claim to having invented the Macanese egg tart, but the tarts provided just enough sugar to satiate my sweet tooth.

The highlight of Coloane was Fernando's, a Portuguese restaurant located on Hac Sa (Cantonese for "black sand") Beach. I have read a lot about this restaurant before, as it is recommended by all the guide books as one of the best places to eat in Macau. I usually take such recommendations with a grain of salt, but couldn't pass up dining here since we made it all the way out to Coloane.

"Make sure they know you're waiting," said a middle-aged British man who was sitting at the bar. "They have the worst service..." he paused, then sighed, "...but THE BEST food."

Sure enough, service was gruff, but there were little complaints as we chowed down on the hearty Portuguese/Macanese fare. Macanese fried rice had a delicious blend of shrimp, bacalao, Portuguese sausage, and olives. It was great for eating alone or for sopping up the feijoada, a stew of refried beans and fatty pork. I especially liked the roast suckling pig, with sweet crackly skin and tender meat, served with a salad with thick homemade fries.

The dining room is a bit spartan; it looks like equal parts beach house, lodge, and Italian red-sauce joint. But the food is what keeps people coming, as it was still busy at 3:30 in the afternoon when we left. The meal was a bit pricey; entrees ranged from 50 to 130 Macau dollars, at 8.03 patacas to the USD. But the house red wine (25 Macau dollars for a half carafe) was a relative bargain, and great for sipping to celebrate a low-key Valentine's Day in a low-key part of town.

To get to Coloane Take bus 15, 21A, 25, or 26A from Central Macau.

Lord Stow's Bakery 1 Rua da Tassara Coloane Town Square, Coloane Island, Macau

Fernando's Praia de Hac Sa, 9 Coloane Island, Macau 853/28882264

Macanese Egg Tarts and Other Street Treats

Central Macau is full of food stalls selling a variety of Macanese and Cantonese treats. It's possible to spend an entire day eating without resting your feet, though resting your feet has its own merits, of course. The street in front of the Forteleza de Monte is especially appealing, and one of the first spots you'll see is Pastelaria Koi Kei, buzzing with pastry hounds.

For days before coming to Macau I had been daydreaming of Macanese egg tarts, also known as Portuguese-style egg tarts. Koi Kei keeps them in a warming oven in the front of the store, and for 6 patacas (75 cents) you can have a hot and fragrant egg tart of your very own. Whereas Cantonese egg tarts (sweetened egg custard inside a flaky shell) are tasty enough, the Macanese version goes one step further with a caramelized top, not unlike crème brûlée. The top isn't delicate enough to crack with a spoon, but the entire tart is good enough to be gobbled up in seconds.

Koi Kei was also handing out samples of its almond cookies, tastier than what I've been able to find on mainland China. Varieties include almond cookies with whole walnuts, with egg yolk, even with shredded pork jerky. And speaking of jerky, the store was handing out free samples of that too. Eager customers bought bags of jerky - spicy, regular, pork, beef - by the kilo.

Wandering further we saw a line in front of a smoothie shop that specialized in drinks with large chunks of fruit inside. Craving fresh fruit, we joined the line. What the mango smoothie lacked in liquid, it more than made up for in the fresh pieces of watermelon, kiwi, mango, and dragonfruit.

And who can resist roasted chestnuts when they are being roasted in front of you in a metal cylinder over a roaring fire? Even in Macau on a warm fall day, hot chestnuts sounded like a good idea. At first a crowd gathered around the chestnut-roaster, until he said "These things are going to pop." They stood a bit further back, until the chestnuts coming out of the barrel really did pop with the force and reach of small firecrackers. We kept walking backwards, but still straining forward to see. A woman who walked by shielded her baby from the hot flying chestnut bits.

As soon as the chestnut-roaster wiped his forehead and took off his goggles, the crowd rushed forward to buy a bag of hot roasted chestnuts. "Be careful," he warned us. "Wait 5 minutes, at the very least." We heard the sounds of popping chestnuts in other people's bags. At least there were other street vendors to watch while we waited.

Pastelaria Koi Kei
Rua Felcidade 70-72
Macau
(853) 28938102

 

 

Portuguese / Macanese at Restaurante Escada

As a frequent traveler, I have crossed political borders in many ways: by plane, train, bus, car, and boat. On our day trip to Macau yesterday, I walked across a border for the first time after taking a bus from Zhongshan to the Chinese/Macau customs. On the other side lay a place that is very much Cantonese in lifestyle and language, but where you will find a huge amount of culinary diversity.

Macau was a Portuguese colony until 1999, when it was returned to China. It remains a Special Administrative Region like Hong Kong, which means it gets its own Special boundaries, laws, and Special access to bulk imports of Portuguese sausages. The thought of delicious cured meat compelled me to wander the narrow hilly streets in search of Portuguese and Macanese fare, which is a combination of Portuguese, African, and Southeast Asian cooking.

During the day we ate wherever we walked, as street food in Macau is abundant and delicious. At night I wanted a long, relaxing sit-down dinner. Unfortunately it started to rain just as we were about to walk towards a couple of restaurants in the southern part of the peninsula. Looking for shelter, we turned onto a narrow cobblestone street off Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, and saw a charming little building strung up with lights. Restaurante Escada, said the swinging sign. The daily specials chalkboard listed bacalhau, seafood stew, and a range of grilled meats. We asked to see the regular menu too, and immediately 3, 4, 5, 10 dishes popped out as something I wanted to try. Sold.

For an appetizer we ordered a Portuguese sausage that came out on a flaming dish. The waitress turned it over so we could see how it blistered oh-so-deliciously on the open flame. Tasting the sausage three years after my last trip to Spain and Portugal reminded me just how adept Iberians are when it comes to curing meat.

I ordered Galinha à Africana for my entree, a roasted chicken covered in piri piri, or African bird's eye chili, sauce. The half chicken portion size was more than I could comfortably eat, but definitely sated my appetite for tender and subtley spiced meat. Jacob loved his beef in cream sauce entree; while I am not a huge fan of rare meat, I did steal more than a few french fries, crisp and lightly dusted with pepper, off his plate.

It was a wonderful meal to end a day of exploring Macau, a place so physically close to Guangdong Province, but culturally and culinarily different.

Restaurante Escada
Rua de Sé No. 8 (off Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro)
Macau