When you think of Macau, you inevitably think food especially now, after Macau’s designation as a “Creative City of Gastronomy” by UNESCO. The fusion of cultures has long been seen as a legacy that was inherited also in the kitchen making it one of the best places to try different delicacies from around the world. But besides the amazing Macanese cuisine so unique here, this is one of the few places you can actually try real Portuguese food.
And when you think about Portuguese food, you probably think about the very traditional bacalhau dishes. Well, there are more hidden gems in Macau when it comes to authentic Portuguese food and we will help you try the lesser-known dishes. So, open your mind and gather your friends for a real voyage to Portugal with these famous delicacies that you probably will never have the chance to try anywhere else in the world.
Dobradinha (spicy beef tripe and chickpea stew)
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Although served in some restaurants around Macau, it still isn’t on the top 10 of the most popular Portuguese dishes. And we really don’t understand how. With a soft texture and a very rich sauce combination, this is a perfect dish to order with more and share amongst friends and family. A Lorcha’s one is a bit spicy, giving it an extra notch of flavor. Served as an appetizer, we like having it as a main, with a side of steamed rice. Other spots serving this delicacy are Restaurante Litoral and Restaurante Litoral Taipa.
It is not easy to find the real francesinha even in Portugal these days. Luckily for you, Mariazinha in Macau is considered the best place in China to eat this dish that comes from the northern city of Porto. Francesinha might look like a sandwich but it retains more than that. In between two slices of bread, you will find cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage, and steak, all covered with amazing melted cheese and a slightly spicy sauce. True, this dish is a calorie bomb but it has a unique flavor that goes well with french fries and an ice-cold Super Bock beer. You can add a fried egg on top, but the locals don’t usually ask for it.
If you think you can’t finish it, here’s a tip from a true Porto native: ask for a francesinha without the top bread slice. The cheese will melt directly on the piece of meat. Francesinha at each restaurant has its own secret sprinkle of flavor making them unique. There’s no room for discussion when it comes to the fact that authentic francesinha can only be found in Porto city. And because Mariazinha’s owners originated from there, it’s safe to say you are having the best here in Macau.
Tripas à Moda do Porto (Oporto style tripes)
A dish that is proudly presented as Porto’s one and only. More than food, this dish is a symbol of Porto generosity. According to the history of the city, when soldiers were preparing their ships to conquer Ceuta in 1415, people of Porto were asked to donate supplies to stock the Portuguese navy and they did to such an extent that all that was left to eat was tripe. A mix of stewed beans, carrots, and tripe, nowadays it also has meat and chouriço and is served with white rice.
Alheira (poultry sausage)
It’s considered the king of sausages but this is not similar to any others you may have tried. Alheira is made with meats other than pork, usually veal, duck, chicken, quail or rabbit, and bread. Its crunchy skin makes your mouth water. The sausage is traditionally grilled or roasted and served with boiled vegetables, although it is very common to find them fried and served with chips or rice and a fried egg. History says this dish was invented by the Jews of Portugal, who were given the choice of either being expelled from the country in 1497 or converting to Christianity. Those who converted but secretly retained their beliefs avoided eating pork, forbidden in Judaism. They achieved this by hiding in the sausage poultry meat instead of pork. The recipe later spread amongst Christians. Alheira is typically associated with the city of Mirandela, and the regions of Beira Alta and Trás-os-Montes are also famous for their alheira.
Salada de Polvo (octopus salad)
Octopus is a very common dish on Portuguese menus and it can be found in almost every restaurant in Macau. But forget about an octopus salad with tomato and lettuce, the octopus salad at Café Ocean Corner is nearly identical to the original Portuguese recipe: a green-vinegar based sauce, with thinly sliced capsicum and onion, parsley and olives, perfect for an appetizer or a quick meal. Restaurante Litoral Taipa, in Taipa Village also serves this delicacy, so be sure to try it out as well there. You can also savour on this cold and refreshing dish at António, located in Taipa Village as well.
António 7 Rua dos Clérigos, Taipa Village, +853 2899 9998
In the very traditional Portuguese way, nothing that can be eaten is wasted. And in the Portuguese recipe book, there are many different ways of cooking things that are not often seen as food. “Pipis” is a good example. Literally meaning “giblets”–the interior of poultry–this recipe is commonplace in many “tascas” (small cafés) across Portugal, but now you can also find it in Macau. Delicious morsels with such a yummy sauce, you will definitely want to have more. By the way, we highly recommend the pipis at In Portuguese Food!
Pataniscas (codfish fritters)
Apparently quite easy to prepare and cook, most Portuguese restaurants in Macau don’t serve this. It’s a quite common dish in Portugal, although not as popular as other codfish-based ones, like roasted in the oven with potatoes, or with crunchy chips and parsley (bacalhau à Brás). These fritters are soft on the inside and, due to the fried crust, crispy on the outside. The recipe includes flour, milk, smeared (and boneless) codfish, plus seasonings such as salt and pepper. Some people add spices and herbs. The result is a light–even though it’s fried–and delicate dish that can be eaten as an appetizer or a main, usually accompanied by a side dish of beans or tomato rice. The one served at A Lorcha comes with a side of greens’ rice, which we actually love! Mariazinha also serves this famous dish.
This article was originally written by Joana Estrela in 2017 and updated by Leonor Sá Machado in August 2020.