Macau Public LibraryMacau, a tiny territory on a peninsula about an hour’s boat ride West of Hong Kong harbour, was virtually uninhabited when Portuguese merchants first arrived there more than 450 years ago, except for a few families living on their fishing boats. The Portuguese had already colonised parts of Southeast Asia by the late seventeenth century, so when Portuguese traders arrived at Macau they did so with families and servants who originated from places such as Goa, Malacca and East Timor.  The intermingling of these different heritages produced the Macanese people, and what the Macanese eat perfectly reflects their diverse cultural heritage.

Patua refers to the language (now almost forgotten but seeing some revival) of the Macanese. UNESCO’s Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger classified Patua as a "critically endangered" language Macau News.


Pasteis de BacalhauMacanese cooking is based on European/Portuguese recipes which were adapted so that they could be made with the local produce available in Macau and any goods which the Portuguese traders would have had on their ships (e.g. salt cod, olive oil, bay leaves etc).  This base was augmented with the flavours of Southeast Asia (e.g. coconut and chilli, saffron and cinnamon, mango and mace) to create the unique taste which survives to this day.

Outside the Macanese community, Macanese food is not easy to find – even in Macau itself - and because the cuisine was not developed in a restaurant but evolved in countless homes over centuries, with recipes being handed down from one generation to the next, the nature of how exactly each dish should be cooked can be hotly contested. Thus there are myriad versions of the most famous Macanese dish, “African Chicken” (Galinha a Cafreal), with each cook claiming theirs to be the “most authentic” or “the best”.

But it is possible to work towards some definitions of what Macanese food “should” taste like.  Certainly the cooking is highly diverse, and there’s something for everyone.  The canon ranges from a strong and salty bacalhau dish through to delicate rice noodle soups flavoured with dried shrimp, with a dense offal stew and chicken curry in between.  What is carried through this diversity is balanced seasonings and flavours, seamless fusions of European and Asian ingredients, and a deep sense of culture.


Portugese Red WineMacau Patua evenings are also a chance to highlight Portuguese wine.  Somewhat unknown, misunderstood or undiscovered, Portuguese wine claims a still-important place in Macau’s vibrant wine and dine environment.  It is recommended that you bring Portuguese red wine along to Macau Patua, for even the fish and seafood dishes have a density of flavour which white wines can rarely match. The most appropriate wines for Macau Patua are reds from the cooler regions such as Douro and Dao, which should be available from any wine merchant or large supermarket.

The epicentre of Macanese cuisine is, of course, Macau and it is here that another Portuguese legacy remains strong. Portuguese wine. As its quality soars, many labels have now assumed cult status, and in Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2014, two of the top four were Portuguese reds from the Douro region, and the Number One slot was a port from the stunning 2011 vintage. 

Key things to know about Portuguese wine
It is tremendous value for money. Wines are traditionally blended from a number of different grapes. Portugal is very proud of its indigenous grapes and does not work much with international varieties. The whites should not be overlooked. The wines are terrifically food friendly. The cooler northerly regions such as Douro, Dao and Vinho Verde tend to make the more elegant, even austere, wines, whereas warmer regions such as Alentejo produce deliciously fruity wines. Two top red grapes: Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca. Three top white grapes: Alvarinho, Arinto and Encruzado