We’re all surprised, at least once, when trying food from home in foreign places. Macau is no exception. While some restaurants serve authentic Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Portuguese or American food, it can be difficult to feel the taste of home so far away. If you are addicted to Portuguese food or never tried but want to, here are seven places with can’t-miss dishes. But first, there are three important tips to never forget:
- Ketchup is not a Portuguese thing and never will be, so stay away from steaks, fish or rice dishes filled with ketchup or canned tomato sauce.
- Fish doesn’t usually go with rice in Portuguese cuisine. Excluding grilled fish and seafood rice, what goes best with seafood dishes other than rice is boiled, baked or roasted potatoes.
- Portuguese food is highly seasoned, so expect tasty dishes full of salt and herbs such as coriander, parsley and bay leaves.
Now that you aware of what can be called “the principles of Portuguese food”, let’s start with what really matters: where in Macau, can one savor real Portuguese food?
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Macau’s new must-go place when it comes to Portuguese cuisine, Chiado is owned by famous Portuguese celebrity-chef, Henrique Sá Pessoa. The restaurant is named after a famous square in Lisbon. With the decor taking us back to this city’s historic areas, it presents Portuguese dishes with a flair. They’re not traditional much like in the restaurants mentioned before; here, presentation and plating are beautifully executed while the taste remains untouched. Chiado is Sá Pessoa’s first-ever restaurant outside the country and will surely amaze everyone looking for a bit of Portugal in the region. Try it out if you are looking for something different from what one is used to when in Macau. Here, we recommend their suckling pig (in the photo above) and the codfish “à brás”. Check out more on Chiado here.
Chiado Shop 2206, Level 2, Sands Cotai Central, Cotai +853 8113 8988, www.sandscotaicentral.com/restaurants/western/chiado
Everything is good in this place, owned by an Algarve-born man. If you are just looking to try something truly Portuguese, feel free to check out the menu and choose whatever you feel like. However, if you want to try a typical Algarve dish, go for the Cataplana–this is a copper cookware item used to cook several kinds of food, mainly seafood. You have an array of choices, but the seafood options will never let you down. Baía’s chocolate mousse is the best farewell you will ever have, even better when accompanied by a hot espresso.
There is a quirky large-sized restaurant located in Hac Sa Beach featuring two indoor spaces and an alfresco area. Fernando’s serves all day, from noon to 9:30pm and has the most amazing grilled cuttlefish in Macau. What makes the dish is its sauce, made of olive oil, vinegar, a lot of onion, and some herbs. Naturally, this dish completes itself with a side of boiled potatoes and a fresh mixed salad. Also try the roasted codfish and the grilled chicken. Take note: it is one of the few local restaurants allowed to grill alfresco, so the food is truly tasty. The homemade sangria–white and red–goes well with Fernando’s menu, but there is also a wine list.
The name of this restaurant–owned by an Oporto local–translates into the nickname of Maria, a very Portuguese name. Its food is as traditional as its designation and you can bet you will experience real Portuguese food in this one. From their acclaimed Francesinha–an Oporto delicacy made of bread, meats and cheese topped with a special sauce–to the Friday daily special of codfish cakes, Mariazinha has it all. However, there is one dish which never ceases to amaze: instead of some everyday vegetable soup, this restaurant’s cook crafts the most beautiful vegetable crème. Besides nourishing your belly, it also takes care of your heart, bringing you a step closer to home with each spoonful.
Miramar is located in a secluded part of Hác Sá Beach and its vehicle access is easy to miss. Miramar can be pretty random for the most demanding Portuguese, but there are still some must-have dishes. One of them is fish or seafood pasta. It is brought to the table in a huge covered casserole. Once opened, the aroma of fresh seafood fills the restaurant. This dish must be eaten quickly, otherwise the pasta will become mushy and the sauce will lose some flavors. Miramar is also a good place for barbecue since it also has an outdoor grill.
It stands for Associação dos Aposentados, Reformados e Pensionistas de Macau (APOMAC), an association created 16 years ago to represent the retired locals. Besides medical and recreational services, APOMAC also features a canteen, where everybody can go. There are discounts for members, but normal prices are pretty friendly. Try their steak, called “Bife à APOMAC”. This piece of gorgeous and tender meat is served with a secret recipe sauce and potatoes. APOMAC is generally a Macanese association. Therefore, one can have lunch while listening to conversations in both Portuguese, Cantonese and if you’re lucky, maybe even some Patuá. The fish fillet and the feijoada are also worth a try.
Best know by locals as “Afonso” (after the name of the owner and his third outlet), Café Xina has exquisite dining options to delight their guests and extra to take home since portions are generous. You will rarely be able to savor light Portuguese dishes in Macau since tradition is key for the chefs here. Therefore, restaurants usually have a more traditional approach. Expect to be amazed by their duck rice and especially their cozido (boiled meats like blood sausage, chicken and beef, chorizo, cabbage, beans, other vegetables and rice that’s cooked in broth) and feijoada. There is also a comprehensive list of wines, but few alcoholic beverages so perhaps stick to a Coke and keep it simple.
Café Xina 72, Rua de Tomás Vieira, Macau, +853 2835 0489, www.facebook.com/Cafexina
This article was originally written on January 8, 2018; updated by Leonor Sa Machado on August 13, 2019.