Exploring Portugal's Culinary Influence on Macau's Savoury Cuisine
February 15, 2023
The Portuguese Colonial Empire once stood as the longest-lived empires in European history, starting at the beginning of the Age of Discovery in 1415 with the conquest of African city Ceuta and ending in 1999 with the transfer of Macau to China. Portuguese Macau was the empires first official Portuguese settlement in 1557.
The long culinary influence of Portugal’s colonial rule over Macau is largely responsible for the unique fusion of Macanese and Portuguese cuisine that exists today. The Portuguese have had a strong presence in Macau since the 16th century, when they established a trading port in the area.
During their four centuries of rule, the Portuguese introduced their own culinary traditions to the region, which blended with the area’s existing Chinese and Southeast Asian flavours to create a unique culinary style.
The most prominent example of Macanese-Portuguese fusion cuisine is the traditional Macanese dish, minchi. This dish is a combination of ground beef or pork, onions, potatoes, and spices, all cooked together and served over rice.
It is said to have originated from the Portuguese dish carne de vinha d’alhos, which is a combination of pork, garlic, and wine. The Macanese version of the dish, however, is much spicier, and typically includes a variety of spices such as curry powder, cloves, and star anise.
Another popular Macanese-Portuguese dish is African chicken, which is a combination of chicken, garlic, onions, and spices cooked in a rich tomato sauce. This dish is said to have originated from the African slaves brought to Macau by the Portuguese. The African slaves also introduced the use of chili peppers, which are now commonly used in Macanese cuisine.
Portuguese-style desserts are also popular in Macau. These include the traditional pastel de nata, a custard tart made with puff pastry, and the bolo de mel, a sweet cake made with honey and spices. Other Portuguese-influenced desserts include the almond cake, the serradura, and the queijada, a cheese tart.
Macanese cuisine also has a strong influence of Chinese flavours and ingredients. Dishes such as the African chicken, minchi, and the almond cake often include Chinese ingredients such as soy sauce, sesame oil, and Chinese five-spice powder. The Macanese also have their own version of Chinese dishes such as the pork chop bun, which is a steamed bun filled with pork and vegetables.
The influence of Portuguese cuisine in Macau is evident in the many dishes that are still popular today. The fusion of Macanese and Portuguese recipes, ingredients and seasonings has created a unique culinary style that is both flavourful and comforting. From the traditional minchi to the more modern African chicken, the culinary influence of Portugal from the time of their colonial rule over Macau is undeniable.
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