Don’t Leave Macau Without Trying These Foods

Staff Writer
Pastéis de nata and pork chop buns are the ‘Ernie and Bert’ of Macanese cuisine

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Pork chop buns are a Macanese specialty.

Ask almost any food enthusiast and they’ll tell you provincial Chinese cuisine is most closely associated with the indigenous preparations of white rice, noodles of varying widths and lengths, and a slew of palate-dominant spices and seasonings. Yet just outside that framework, both literally and figuratively, sits the Chinese culinary version of a portmanteau known as Macanese cuisine.

Due to Macau’s history as a Portuguese colony located on the southeastern outskirts of mainland China’s borders, the tiny but densely populated settlement has developed a culinary identity unique unto itself. While this Portuguese/Cantonese mashup has given way to any number of dishes that are distinctly Macanese, it is perhaps the golden sheen of tiny baked egg pastries and the intensity of handheld-sized pork sandwiches that might most cause somebody to tell you: “You’re eating Macanese.”

While it’s certainly possible to escape Macau’s borders without consuming the aforementioned pastéis de nata (egg tart) and the less romantically named pork chop bun, if you do take off without having sampled them… well then, you just did it wrong.

Truth be told, pastéis de nata can be found just about anywhere the Portuguese once set up shop; these baked treats did in fact originate in the Motherland. Yet thanks to the dearly departed Andrew Stow and his pseudo-eponymous Lord Stow’s Bakery, as well as a handful of other purveyors, these egg-filled pastry cups are as closely identified with Macau as they are with their country of origin. While the specific content of your tart may vary depending on its source, any proper rendering of said delicacy will deliver a flaked puff pastry brim with a sweet (but not prohibitively so) creamed egg yolk filling from the oven to your mouth as quickly as is possible. We won’t fault you if you sample whatever example is availed to you, as these miniature desserts populate the menu of many a Macau restaurant. Still, it would behoove you to seek out versions produced by Lord Stow’s Bakery or Margaret's Cafe e Nata.

The Ernie to the egg tart’s Bert is most certainly a Macanese pork chop bun. Whereas the tart is all about the sweet tooth in you, the pork chop bun is about realizing your inner carnivore. It’s a simple assembly. True P.C.B.s contain no sauce nor a single leaf of anything remotely green. You’ll know you’ve found the righteous path when your miniature baguette snuggles both sides of a perfectly fried pork chop. While meat experts everywhere can argue at great length about the benefits of meat cooked bone-in or boneless, it seems almost counterproductive to eat a pork chop bun in which the bone has been annexed from the sandwich. Bones make it fun. Find your way to Sei Kee Café, a shop that’s been slinging these little delights since 1965. One of their locations is at the end of a small, dilapidated alley. It’s the experience you need.

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