Skip the casinos and shiny hotels. Just spend a day at the Portuguese monuments. Stay in a quaint little hostel and get lost in the labyrinth of alleys. Walk, don’t take bus or you’ll miss out. Say hi to the locals because they are now on my top 3 Most Friendly Locals list (together with Philippines and Taiwan). Macau gives me this vibe that is like stepping into a photo of Singapore in the 1960s. Where everything happens on ground level, shops are so cramped with goods that they spill over on walkways with people on their daily grind making an honest living. A familiar, yet unacquainted nostalgia.
One thing about asking for directions in Macau is to show the CHINESE address or name of where you are heading, because most locals don’t speak English or Portuguese or even fluent Chinese. I had a bit of problem talking to some locals and reading signs because the main language is Cantonese and they use traditional Chinese – but everyone truly tried to be helpful!
Here’s a famous spot – Cocos Hung Heng, a 140 year old coconut shop selling every coconut products. Address – No.14, Rua de Tercena, Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro (Chinese: 洪韾椰子, 澳門果欄街14號地下)
Most famous is their handmade coconut ice cream which are purely natural, made fresh everyday according to their traditional recipe. Sometimes there are mango and taro flavours too! Best to come in the morning when it is the freshest and softest. The ones we had were already frozen so they were more icy. Certainly the gentlest ice cream my sensitive taste buds ever met, the mango one wins in terms of taste and coconut wins in texture!
We accidentally stumbled upon this little vegetarian jem called Ji Xiang Cao, run by the nicest old couple where we had heartwarming encounters with locals. Strangers sharing food plus all the customers once stood up to help with directions. Since it’s not on Happy Cow I have no idea what’s the English address, but Chinese is 吉祥草素食，司打口水字巷18号虎A. Another shot of nostalgia because it was exactly like those vegetarian restaurants I had countless childhood family meals in – from the poorly photographed menu, white wall tiles with prosperity posters and the sounds of loud frying from the small kitchen – all part of this charm that we seldom find anymore in Singapore.
It was near Dragon Boat Festival hence the sweet old lady boss proudly told us that they handmade all these savoury rice dumplings. Before serving them to us she took the plate to another table and snapped pictures of the neatly cut dumplings with her phone – then giggled shyly when we looked at her with utmost amusement! Here are my favourites from their restaurant.
Deep fried tempura silken tofu – MY GOD such a combination is possible! So crisp and the insides soft like custard served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.
Brinjal claypot is more divine than it looks!
This is one stir fry I really liked, (They generally seem to do stew and braised dishes better). This type of green pepper is literally called tiger skin pepper maybe because of the wrinkles formed after heating them. It’s exactly the wrinkles and firm skin that gives a nice chew and retains juiciness while soaking up the fermented bean sauce.
This was an eye-opening dish. A stew of sponge gourd and wood’s ear fungus made with the thick and creamy water from rice porridge as soup base! The warm smoothness of every spoonful is most comforting.
A restaurant near Ruins of St Paul on a sloped street towards Monte Fort – finally somewhere easy to find! According to Happy Cow they are Feng Cheng Xuan despite having no signange other than 素 and the Buddhist swastikas which signifies vegetarian food served here. Not sure of the exact Chinese address but street name is 大炮台街.
The staff are really helpful and nice with recommending dishes. But honestly felt some things we ordered are average, a bit oily and somewhat roughly made – but the handmade wontons were seriously good. Fat and tender, the fragrant filling of chives and minced soy ‘meat’ oozing out at each bite.
Macau had left a strong impression on me as being staunchly Cantonese – the years of Portuguese colonisation barely scratched it’s surface. You can’t feel the real Macau in those casinos and renovated monuments scrubbed clean of any traces of use! One day I’ll be back with my camera, and hopefully be able to capture of the perseverance of their culture.