Last Updated on December 19, 2019
Possibly the Oldest Fusion Cusine in the World.
I’ve had a fascination with Macanese food since a very special lunch about a year ago when I met one of Macao’s top chefs and enjoyed an introduction to the City’s cuisine. As UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, Macao is recognised worldwide for its cuisine. But, it’s not just the Michelin starred restaurants (there are now 20, serving a population of 600,000). Simple dishes like the one I am sharing of curried prawns with okra (caril de camarão com quiabos) are delicious everyday dishes you can make at home which are just as much part of the Macanese food culture.
What sets Macao apart is a fusion cuisine which takes elements of Chinese and Portuguese food, seasoning well with influences from the Portuguese trade routes that ran through India, Africa and South-East Asia. We learnt that the city’s food scene seamlessly mergest traditional Portuguese eateries, where you’ll find bacalhau and choriço, spicy African chicken, pork chop buns and flaky pastel de nata. There are a host of international cuisines too, but it’s the Portuguese/Chinese fusion which intrigues me the most. And, I now have a delicious new dish to make at home, curried prawns with okra, that I think exemplifies Macanese cuisine
Invited to learn to cook a couple of Macanese dishes at the new Sauce cookery school, part of the Langham Hotel, I went along to meet Nuno Mendes (the leading Portuguese chef in London and as we learnt, a huge fan of Macanese food himself) to try two dishes – a Macanese tamarind-braised pork and Macanese curried prawns with okra.
The tamarind braised pork is a recipe which takes an hour to cook and at least two hours marinating. In fact, Mendes recommends using Ibérico pork, a cut called cachaço, where possible. The recipe also uses a host of Asian ingredients – shrimp and tamarind paste, fresh ginger, Thai basil, chilli and spring onions.
We did try the version he made as part of the demonstration and, at some point, I may well try myself and share here. For now, though, I’m sharing the recipe which we made ourselves and which sums up Macanese food for me.
Caril de camarao com quiabos is a delicious and easy recipe for spicy currie prawns with okra Macanese style
- 700 g Large, shell-on prawns
- 8 Spring Onions sliced into 4cm pieces
- 1 knob Ginger (about 3cm) finely chopped
- 1 Red onion peeled and finely chopped
- 3 Small red chillies Deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 Banana shallots Finely chopped
- 200 g Roasted peanuts
- 20 Okra Washed, trimmed and halved lengthways
- 2 tsp Madras curry powder
- 2 large Tomatoes peeled, seeded and diced
- 3 tbsp Butter
- 4 tbsp Grapeseed oil
- Coconut rice to serve
- Fresh coriander, 2 red chillies and a handful of chopped roasted peanuts to garnish
Peel and devein the prawns, keeping the heads on. Reserve the shells for stock and put the prawns in the fridge till you are ready to cook
Toast the shells in a saucepan with a tablespoon of grapeseed oil, until lightly golden
Pour over 600 ml of water, bring to the boil and cook for 30 minutes.
Strain through a fine sieve. You need 400ml for this recipe so the remainder can be frozen to use later.
Heat 3 tablespoons of grapeseed oil in a large frying pan
Add the spring onions, red onion and shallot and cook for 4 minutes till the onions are soft and translucent
Turn down the heat and add the butter. Cook till just starting to brown. Add the chillies, ginger and curry powder. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes to release the flavour from the spices.
Add the peanuts and tomatoes. Fry for a few minutes then add the okra. Turn the heat up and cook for 3-4 minutes before adding 400ml of prawn stock and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens ( 10-15 minutes).
Add the prawns to the pan and increase the heat. Stir them through the sauce for 2-3 minutes, trying to ensure the heads don't break off the bodies
To serve the curried prawns with okra, pour the prawns and sauce onto a serving platter and arrange the okra around the rim. Garnish with coriander, sliced chillies and peanuts and serve with coconut rice
For me, this was a fascinating insight into typical Macanese dishes.
I’m really intrigued by the city, which is just forty miles from Hong Kong on the south coast of China. At just 13 square miles, it’s a compact destination which sounds perfect to explore. I love the idea of a Portuguese/Chinese fusion both in terms of food and architectural heritage. In complete contrast, Macao offers a vibrant nightlife which rivals that of Vegas. It’s also a great place to use as a hub if you want to visit Hong Kong, China, Malaysia or even Australia. And you can choose from ultra-luxury contemporary hotels like Morpheus, designed by Zaha Hadid, through to the traditional Portuguese style Pousada de Coloane. You can fly directly to Macao or travel to Honk Kong and take the one-hour ferry direct from the airport.
Sauce cookery school also lived up to my expectations. It is beautifully equipped with individual stations and a central demonstration counter. But, it feels like a home from home, the kind of kitchen I’d love to cook in every day. There’s nothing clinical about the layout either in the classroom or in the adjacent dining room.
As for Nuno Mendes, he remains my favourite Portuguese chef – and I’m delighted that he’s as passionate about Macanese food as me!Many thanks to Nuno and Great British Chefs, the team at Sauce and the Macao Tourist Office for their hospitality.
For more information about Sauce cookery school, check their website.
Do check out the Visit Macao website to find out more about this fascinating destination