This is a yummylicious district food guide in Macau but it’s not just about food. It’s about experiencing Macau without placing a single bet. Macau was once a Portuguese small town filled with historic buildings and cobblestone pavements. Today, the newly developed Casinos and hotels in both Macau Peninsula and Cotai have further transformed the city into Vegas in China, and it has become one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists.
Macau is merely a 115.3-square-kilometer (and much smaller back then). Yet the small town is filled with amazing food and cuisines and it was an indulging experience every time I am in town – we are going to walk through these streets and beyond, looking for delightful dishes where East meets West.
It would be hard for me to list out all the great places one by one as there are simply so many, and lots of them keep changing. I do, however, have a list of personal favorites and recommendations. You are welcome to share with us your favorite picks, too!
São Lázaro, Nossa Senhora de Fátima, and São Lázaro
Macau is divided into eight parishes (and those in Macau Peninsula are named in Portuguese) and five of them are located in the Macau Peninsula. Wandering in the streets and alleys of the Macau peninsula, it’s an eye wide shut for food lovers. Being the most highly and densely populated city in the world, everything is so compact, and hidden gems are always found just around the corner. Looking for food, one of my favorite areas is the Rotunda de Carlos da Maia. It is a bustling place where locals would also call it the “Three Lamp Posts” – because of the lamp post with three lamps located in the center of the roundabout. The market is a food paradise. One food stall is my favorite and it’s the best pig knuckle and ginger stew from Fung Kei. After that, explore the old market between the residential buildings where you would find lots of fresh fruits and produce, and innovative and traditional snacks. There is quite a big Burmese community in Macau; On the other side of the roundabout, is a hidden gem of Myanmar cuisine, Nga Heong. Nothing fancy, it’s just another local joint and the coconut curry chicken noodle is something that I have never tried before.
Rotunda de Carlos da Maia
During the freezing days, a lamb stew with bean curd sheet would warm you up in a heartbeat. The lamb belly was cooked tenderly, while water chestnuts, beancurd sheets, and radish absorbed the rich flavor of the soup base. At the back of the Saint Dominic’s church, there was a street food stall still serving this street-style style delicacy in a clay pot over traditional charcoal. Nice.
pig knuckle and ginger stew
Sé, São Lourenço
Moving on to the south side of the Macau Peninsula (a.k.a. Sé and São Lourenço) are much more vibrant with casinos, the Macau Tower, and the iconic Ruins of St Paul’s. The façade of the Church of St. Paul has been the city’s best-known landmark.
There is a trail from the Senado Square that leads up the ruins and it is the hub for tourists, along with a lot of old names of great places like Wong Chi Kei (Guangdong noodles and dishes), U Tac Hong (Tofu Fa – Soya Beancurd Custard), Sam Yuen (Congee), Cheong Kei (shrimp roe noodles), Lei Kei (ice cream and dessert), and Yi Xun (Chinese steamed milk custard) … The list goes on and on. Explore the Avenue de Almeida Ribeiro – one of the main avenues in Macau Peninsula, The R. da Felicidade (Yes, most Macau’s streets and alleys are still named in Portuguese), tourists could find long queues outside of these places every day.
Moving to the waterfront, the Macau Tower dominates the peninsula skyline and it offers a 360 panoramic view of the peninsula, Taipa, and even China. While you may enjoy a western-style buffet at the top of the tower, or challenge yourself to go for the Bungy jump, sky jump or skywalk, the Sai Van Lake Square around the tower is also where the Macau Food Festival takes place every year in November.
Macau Food Festival
The festival was exciting as it’s just getting bigger and bigger. it has become a favorite event among locals and international visitors that brings delicious delicacies from China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, and Europe with game booths, live performances, and fun for everyone. I had a great time strolling through the stalls under the cool November weather, and tasting worldwide cuisine with the happy crowd.
The west side of Sai Van Lake is a nice area of Macau. It’s quieter on the side of the lake and the historic Pousada De Sao Tiago is my favorite. It is a historic castle hotel resort located on the west corner of the Peninsula. Away from the dazzling casinos in the city center, the hotel is an intimate, charming heritage site with only 12 luxurious suites overlooking the inner harbor of Macau and the Pearl River Delta. If you want to get away from the crowd, try their afternoon tea in the courtyard, you may see a different side of Macau.
Turning the page to the Portuguese chapter, Macau is filled with Portuguese restaurants. Seafood stew, clams in wine, roasted suckling pigs, and Portuguese tarts are impossible to resist.
In the Macau city center, Margaret’s café e Nata is the mic of yin and yang – Portuguese Tart and pastries served with milk tea that reminds me very much of Belem in Lisbon. The crispiness of the tart crust and the warmth of the egg/custard filling will lighten your day.
On the Macau peninsula, the traditional Alorcha and Henri’s Gallery are very close to the Nam Van Lake and Sai Van Lake. However, the true exotic experience is mostly located in Coloane, the once southernmost island in Macau now connected with Taipa and formed the Cotai district.
So I saw a very interesting video about the identity of the Macau Portuguese tart, which is actually different from the tarts in Belem! (About Pastéis de Belém – My Lisboa Encounters: The Diners)
Taipa (Nossa Senhora do Carmo)
In Taipa, immerse in the Rua do Cunha and rebirth in the street food Nirvana. If you are looking for Macau famous local pastries, cookies, pork bun, and meat jerky, this is where you needed to be. I love, love, and love the crab congee at the 30 Seng Cheong restaurant. Tasty!
The Taipa Houses Museum in Taipa
Coloane (São Francisco Xavier)
As I said, Macau was a Portuguese colony and so the city offers brilliantly tasty and authentic Portuguese cuisine (with a bit Chinese cooking touch), and the effect of such cultural clash is exponential.
The Coloane area is less developed still and it could be considered a backyard of the Macau city. On the west side, the café Nga Tim is an outdoor café located right in front of the chapel of St. Francis Xavier, with a small square paved with Portuguese tiles – it is a lovely setting for a little Lisbon experience in China.
The last two places are great and so I saved it as my Finale, not only these two places have a nice and relax seaside setting and but also the Portuguese food is actually nice and yummy. Fernando’s and Miramar are located on the opposite ends of the Hac Sa Beach (Black Sand Beach) – I am not (or could not) judge whether their Portuguese dishes are ‘authentic’, I just love the taste – especially grilled fish, crispy and salty on the outside, juicy and fresh on the inside; and the clams, the soup served with garlic bread…. Heavenly ~