You touch down in Macau, and you’re only there for 1 day. Some people might be worried about maximizing their time in the casinos, but our chief concern was what to eat in Macau! There are only 3 meals in a day, and only so much food one stomach can handle in about 10 hours, so we had to choose judiciously and make moves efficiently to make sure we ate the best of what Macau had to offer.
On our recent trip to Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Macau, our biggest goal was making sure we got our fill of all of our favorites. So we’re starting with Macau, because there were some truly standout items in a trip filled with meal after meal, snack after snack of gastronomic delights. Also, because we were in Macau only for a day, it’s the easiest one to tackle!
The first order of business was getting to Macau. We took the ferry from Shenzhen, which was a quick ride. Be sure to buy your tickets early! I wasn’t sure which online presence was the right one, but we realized that TurboJET is the way to go.
Because of our ticket uncertainty, we missed some of the earlier time slots and ended up snagging the last handful of seats in the first class cabin! It was an upside-down-smiley-face moment, but we were traveling in comfort (that said, first class wasn’t all that different from Economy class––slightly bigger seats, and some snacks and drinks. Not worth the price if you can snag regular seats for the short ride).
We cruised across the water over to Macau in just an hour or so. The whole process was extremely simple and efficient.
From the ferry terminal, we hopped into a cab to our first food destination! In the distance, the Grand Lisboa loomed over the cramped streets where the locals live, and where we would find our first snack of the day…
Our cab driver was pretty helpful and dropped us off at the entrance of a narrow alley that opened up into a square. Crowds of people were queued up waiting for not just one but TWO local noms that I still sometimes think back to fondly when I’m hungry…The fact that they were side-by-side was the cherry on top.
1. Macau pork chop buns
The Macau pork chop bun is a crispy fried pork chop––we don’t know what they coat it in but it’s just the lightest kiss of some kind of flour–there’s actually no breading––and a light seasoning. It’s nestled in either one of two choices: your standard Portuguese roll bun, or………A BUTTERY, FLAKY PINEAPPLE BUN. We of course purchased both (and lots of ’em) to feed our crew.
To clarify, we hit Tai Lei Loi Kei which is the de-facto champ of the Macau pork chop bun scene. Look at that cute lil piggy. Just follow him and you’ll be well fed.
The queue moved quickly, and we watched as our buns were prepared.
The operation was simple, and the set meal was about as much variation as you could get at Tai Lei Loi Kei.
When we finally got our hands on these, I was very very happy. This is the classic Portuguese bun.
Note the manic glee, inspired only by traveling by plane AND boat AND car to get your hands on a great sandwich.
And this is the delightful glow of the Pineapple bun version.
Just look at that combination of textures–the crunchy pineapple topping, the pillowy soft bun, the crunch of the pork chop. I mean are we in Flavortown, or are we in FLAVORTOWN?!!!
When you get a moment, try my dad’s version of the famous Macau pork chop bun he made in the early days of our blog!
2. Portuguese egg tarts
In the easiest transition to dessert ever, we popped over next door and hopped in line to try Margaret’s famous egg tarts and Hong Kong milk tea. For those of you who have tried Hong Kong egg tarts, these Portuguese egg tarts are quite different.
While we waited in line, there were lots of folks chillin’ in the tent munching on egg tarts and sipping cool milk tea.
The inside of the operation, like most places in Macau, was modest and no frills. Just the goods.
Not pictured here is the boss lady who rang us up––she looked very normal, but had a giant diamond and emerald necklace on which just goes to show how much of these egg tarts fly out the door every day.
We got a dozen, because we could, and we were traveling with a large band of very committed eaters.
Moment of truth…
!!!!!!!!!! I’m having a “my precious” moment…
We’ve had these before in Shanghai at the odd subway stand, but these were next level.
The texture was perfectly silky and not too sweet. You would think it was greasy (which, I mean, I’m not gonna lie about the amount of butter needed to achieve this), but it was impossibly light at the same time!
Since coming home from Macau, my dad started relentlessly testing recipes to recreate these egg tarts, and happy to report he succeeded! Get our Macau Egg Tart recipe here.
From there, we took a break to explore the rest of the historic part of Macau. I came across this very helpful Chinese medicine with rather cryptic illustrations. Good for indigestion??? Toothache? Sleep aid? Unclear to my slacker Chinese-lacking brain.
We strolled by ancient temples that felt like they had been there forever.
And some of the candy-colored buildings from Macau’s Portuguese influence.
We didn’t have time to go to the ritzier side of town with the casinos, and I didn’t mind at all. I’d much rather see the history of Macau where locals still dried and displayed fish on the streets.
We were also sure to hit the Ruins of St. Paul, where my great grandmother had also visited in her younger days. Only the facade of the church continues to stand.
We paused for a group pic–our odd crew of TWOL and friends.
We helped a group of Chinese tourists take their photo as well, both being equally committed to lining up the best shot, and one of them was a professional calligrapher! He gifted us with one of his pieces, which he was carrying with him and passing on to folks he met on the road.
It was perfect for working up an appetite for our last food venture in Macau…
3. Authentic Portuguese food at Antonio Restaurant
After days of exclusively Chinese fare, we decided to head to Antonio Restaurant for dinner to enjoy some authentic Portuguese food. We got there a little early for our reservation, and ended up killing time looking at the many awards and certificates the restaurant had posted outside.
But on the way back from the bathroom, I spotted none other than ANTONIO. I very embarrassingly and excitedly whisper-shouted to the group when I went back out to the front of the restaurant, *pointing inside the door* “It’s ANTONIO.”
But to our delight a few minutes later, he emerged from the restaurant and started talking to us about the restaurant, how long he’s been in Macau, his all-Portuguese staff, and the kinds of things we should order for dinner!
When we sat down at our table, we perused the menu, which was simple, and translated in something like 5 languages.
As we made our final selections over the basket of fluffy Portuguese rolls, olives, and butter, he advised us to make sure we were trying the best items and didn’t have any two dishes that were too similar.
The first thing we ate were these delicious bacalau fritters. They were perfectly salty, blended with potato, fried to perfection, and served with a few green olives.
From there, we had another delicious bacalau dish of crunchy shredded potato and some kind of red pepper sauce. This was a big hit, and kind of like if a potato latke decided to ditch their 9-5 and do something kooky with bacalau as partner in crime.
From there, we had a flaming Portuguese sausage that was a major highlight.
This little kid certainly thought so. Tiny food lover in our midst here:
The result was a lightly crisped exterior, and I have no idea what was actually in the sausage but it was delightful.
For our main course, we had the most tender cod filet cooked with potatoes in olive oil and lots and lots of garlic. Somehow the oil had totally penetrated the fish and was crazily tender as a result.
There was also curry crab, which Antonio helped us dissect.
And this delicious rice dish with duck and cured meats.
Needless to say, we stumbled away well fed, and ready to pass out on the ferry back to Shenzhen.
If you missed all the action when we were on our trip, you can head over to our Instagram and check out our story highlights. We’ll also cover all the things we saw and ate on the rest of our trip in Shanghai and Hong Kong, so until next time!