So excited to report that we spent another lovely weekend in Macao! This time, meandering through the alleyways of Taipa Village, posing against the Instagram-perfect backdrops of what could be Wes Anderson film sets, all pastel-colored walls and old European lampposts.
Taipa Village is home to low-rise shophouses of local diners called cha chaan tengs, gourmet restaurants, and some converted into hip lifestyle concept stores. We popped into centuries-old temples, marveling at the beautiful shadows of spiral incenses and the prayers and wishes written on tiny pieces of paper attached to them. As we strolled under the shade of large old banyan trees, occasionally passing a sleepy granny having a siesta on her rattan recliner chair at home, we were also thrilled to stumble upon a piece of Macao history: the now defunct old firecracker factory Fabrica de Panchoes Iec Long—one of the primary sources of trade for Macao in the 1950s.
For a moment, we almost forgot we were in Macao til we followed our noses to the confectioneries of fresh almond cookies from Koi Kei Bakery and buttery filo pastry egg tarts from San Hou Lei—famous for their bird’s nest egg tarts. Other varieties include coconut- and milk-custard tarts, but our favorite was the Portuguese “Po” tarts with the perfect caramelized top.
What we loved most here was the beautiful, eclectic mix of old and new, traditional and a little trendy. The urban layout of little squares reminded us of Europe and the Portuguese influence. We thoroughly enjoyed eating our way through Taipa Village, soaking in equal measure the Portuguese legacy and the local Chinese way of life through food and drink, and visually feasting on the mélange of culture and architecture. Art Deco details on shophouses and back lanes lined with repetitive motifs of brise soleil bricks or new colorful decorative motifs of traditional Portuguese tiles. With this cross-cultural culinary microcosm, it is easy to see why Macao was last year designated a UNECSO Creative City of Gastronomy.
We’re so glad we managed to get reservations at this institution and got to meet chef Antonio himself who performed the ritual of opening a bottle of champagne with his sabre. We were serenaded with live music all night as we tucked into authentic Portuguese cuisine— part of our spread included fresh octopus salad, bacalhau, garlic clams and homemade stuffed Portuguese sausages.
Woody, intimate interiors and an extensive Portuguese wine list whisked us off to Portugal for the few hours we were here.
This is one of the latest hot spots, and a place where you will drink in history over stories of cocktails based on Vasco da Gama’s voyages. Nine specialty cocktails provided a map of the tales and adventures of Gama’s voyage from Portugal to India, infused with ingredients picked up along the trade route that traveled across oceans.
Goa was a former Portuguese colony and we loved how the food menu reflects the influences, from the “Recheado shrimps” to Chorizo Naan. Yum!
As we dug deeper into history through cuisine, we tried out Portugalia, whose history is rooted in a beer house founded in the 20th century. We enjoyed a delicious steak done Portuguese style— topped with a sunny-side up egg—a comforting serving of seafood rice, and Codfish Espiritualan: an oven baked dish of shredded codfish in a creamy sauce.
It was lovely to see and indulge in the Portuguese culinary legacy that remains strong in Macao. We envisage summer evenings best spent on the rooftop over a tipple or two watching the sunset over Taipa Village.
Kwong Heng Long Oyster
The history of the space in which they live is not lost on the locals. In this former fishing village, it made perfect sense that the decades-old dried shrimp-paste shop Kwong Heng Long Oyster sauce store was sunning thousands of tiny shrimps on the wide-open spaces to prepare for preservation and bottling. The shop produces more than 20,000 bottles of the balichão shrimp sauce a year and it is a flavor used in many traditional Macanese dishes. We took the advice of a local and bought a bottle to take home and make the delicious dish of shrimp paste– coated fried chicken wings.
From the old man sunning his dried shrimp on the ground to the locals running their little cafés, Taipa is bustling with activity. Locals go about their daily lives unfazed as we tourists wander around taking selfies. We checked out locally roasted coffee beans at Quarter Square, and met their adorable mascot, Copper, a French bulldog. Then, it was across the square to Fong Da Coffee for aromatic brews with beans roasted Taiwanese style. We sampled every snack on busy Cunha Street and popped into the wet market by the corner watching people pick out the freshest seafood and vibrant vegetables.
Pui Kei Café
We loved the adventure of starting the day with a hearty Chinese breakfast over a hot cup of traditional sock-brewed milk tea at Pui Kei, a local diner in Taipa Village. Best known for their egg and flour cupcakes filled with raisins or walnuts, they also whip up egg noodles cooked a perfect al dente tossed in a magic savory sauce topped with a perfectly seasoned and deep-fried Chinese version of pork schnitzel.
Arts & Culture
Taipa Village Art Space, which has rotating exhibits, was showing a lovely series of ink paintings by Lio Man Cheong, spotlighting the Macao firecrackers industry, which was a main revenue source in the 1950s. The Museum of Taipa and Coloane History has relics and artefacts from the voyages of the Portuguese since the 14th century. There’s also a row of cute green colonial houses that makes up the Taipa Houses Museum. They were restored as an events venue for visitors to wander and imagine the colorful yesteryear.
The Spiritual Side
The pastel yellow Our Lady of Carmo Catholic Church sits at the top of the hill overlooking Taipa Village. Completed in 1885, it was the only Catholic Church in Taipa at that time and seems like a popular backdrop for wedding photo shoots with an air of European influence. On the other side of Taipa Village, we lit a spiral incense at Pak Tai Temple, which has been around for over 160 years. Translating to “Northern Emperor,” this is where villagers and fishermen would make offerings for protection against floods and fire, as well as safe journeys for the seafaring folks whose livelihood depended on sailing the oceans.
MACAO GOVERNMENT TOURISM OFFICE
Address: Alameda Dr. Carlos d’Assumpção, n.os 335-341, Edifício “Hot Line”, 12º andar, Macao
Tel: +853 2831 5566
Fax: +853 2851 0104
Tourism Hotline: +853 2833 3000