If there’s one place in Macao where you can pack all the region’s unique flavours into a single meal, it is at Taipa Food Street. Officially known as Rua do Cunha, this is a narrow cobble-stoned pedestrian street packed with bakeries, food stores and restaurants. Though only a hop away from the hotels and casinos, it is a taste of Macao’s more traditional side. In the lanes that branch off from the street, you can walk among the small houses, taking a peek into a backyard where friends sit and chat, or watch a cat posing atop a bicycle. Tucked in the same lanes are some of Taipa’s oldest, best loved restaurants.
Here’s a guide to an evening at Taipa Food Street:
Soup Warm up with a bowl of the crab congee, a savoury porridge-like dish, from Seng Cheong Restaurant, located in the middle of the busy food street. You may have to wait, but not for long, since most folks come here just to have this particular dish that the restaurant is famous for (30, Rua do Cunha; small crab congee MOP180/Rs 1,470).
Cookies To give the congee time to settle and make room for more, queue up at Pastelaria Fong Kei to stock up on their fresh handmade cookies. Visitors say that their almond cookies and sweetheart or wife cakes (flaky pastry with a filling of almond, winter melon, sesame, and a blend of spices) are worth the wait. Their signature product is an almond cookie with a pork filling (14, Rua do Cunha; small packed of almond cookies MOP35/Rs 285).
Ginger Candy + Beef/Pork Jerky Every now and then, along the street, there are salespersons offering various food samples. I happily tried everything that was put in front of me, eager to taste all the exciting flavours. Pastelaria Koi Kei is a particularly good place to do that. It is also where you can pick up a stash of almond cookies if you weren’t up to the queue at Fong Kei (two large branches at 11-13 and 46-50, Rua do Cunha; www.koikei.com).
Beer Old Taipa Tavern on a lane just off Taipa Food Street, is an Irish style pub with very, many crafts brews on offer. The haunt of Macau’s pretty large expat community, the place is always buzzing in the evenings (21 Rua Dos Negociantes).
Appetiser A pork chop bun may not be a conventional appetiser, but you should not leave without trying these delicious burgers whipped up at Tai Lei Loi Kei. You’ll find pork chop buns all over Macao, but it is said that they were invented by this company. The ginger, garlic seasoning makes all the difference (35, Rua Correria da Silva; pork chop bun MOP48/Rs 390).
Main Course There are just so many choices in and around this little street that it is hard to pin point a single place for dinner. O Santos (20, Ru do Cunha; www.osantoscomidaportuguesa.com) has been serving up authentic, home-style Portuguese food for about 20 years (also Mick Jagger ate here). For a more upscale experience, go to Antonio’s (7, Rua dos Clerigos; antoniomacau.com). Everything I ate at the restaurant, which is listed in the Michelin Guide, was stellar. You can also just stroll around Rua do Cunha and its adjoining streets and walk into whichever restaurant catches your fancy.
Dessert Make sure you save place for dessert as the warm egg tarts from the Lord Stows Bakery outlet are not to be missed. I feel in love with its perfectly crisp and buttery flaky pastry, that’s complemented by a creamy custard filling. It takes discipline to stop at just one (9, Rua do Cunha, www.lordstow.com, MOP9/Rs 74 per tart).
Macau’s food culture represents a meeting of its historical past with its modern present – be it the Portuguese egg tarts or the packets of almond cookies and beef jerky. It is all food that is created to be carried, in the best tradition of street food that many parts of Asia do very well – including Macau. Often streets come alive at night, and the lights and fires create interesting images – here, on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, I pushed up my ISO high enough to hand hold the camera, but not so the image would pixelate.
– Ashima Narain, Photographer, Winner, Macau photography contest, travelled to Macau in December, 2016
Neha Dara is a travel writer and editor. She is happiest trotting off the beaten path, trekking in the Himalayas, scuba diving in Andaman & Nicobar, or exploring local markets in small towns. She tweets as @nehadara.
Ashima Narain has worked as a fashion, wildlife, wedding, and ngo photographer. She has also directed and shot award-winning wildlife documentaries, “In The Pink” and “The Last Dance”.