Macau attracts some 30 million visitors a year, drawn by its pastel baroque churches, ancient Chinese temples and (mostly) vast casinos that dwarf even Las Vegas’s. But Macau can also claim to be home to one of the world’s first fusion cuisines, with Macanese cooking dating back 450 years. It’s a blend of Cantonese flavours mixed with ingredients like olives and chorizo from Portugal, which ruled here from the 1550s until 1999, and exotic tastes and spices such as coconut milk, cloves, turmeric, cinnamon and fiery piri piri from around Portugal’s empire – Mozambique, Brazil, Goa, Malaysia.
The result is striking dishes like the Macanese take on Brazilian feijoada, using wind-dried Chinese sausage and black pudding, with kidney beans replacing black beans. Macanese tamarind pork is succulent ribs braised with aromatic balichao shrimp paste. Even the local version of fried rice is transformed by adding diced raw green peppers and black olives.
And then there is the unofficial national dish, minchi. This is ground pork or beef, onions and diced potatoes stir-fried with molasses and soy sauce, and topped with a fried egg and a generous dash of Worcester sauce. The name may come from British “mince”, served in nearby Hong Kong.
To try authentic minchi for about £6, track down Riquexo Cafe (the word means rickshaw) in the backstreets of the old town. This cheap and cheerful canteen was created by the wonderful, 101-year-old Aida de Jesus, unofficial godmother of Macanese cuisine. She still oversees the place with her daughter Sonia, and together they speak Patuá, the fast-disappearing local language that, like the cuisine, is a Macanese fusion.