Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Asia tripping - part IX: Macau

This is the ninth of several brief posts of my recent trip to Asia: photos, food and a few thoughts.

Ruins of St Paul's, Macau
Macau is a speedy, somewhat bumpy, just-over-an-hour ferry ride from Hong Kong; home to, it seems, casinos, Portuguese custard tarts, and sub 10 degrees Celcius weather when I visited in January this year.

In fact, the cold and subsequent shopping for puffy jackets are overriding memories of the overnight trip.

Streets around St. Paul's ruins, Macau
The historic centre of Macau is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site, showing off the strong Portuguese influence dating back to the 16th century.

The streets around the tourist attraction of the St. Paul's ruins are filled with, expectedly, tourists (many from mainland China) and somewhat unexpectedly, bakeries and sweets stores, which all provide generous samples of almost everything they sell: pork jerky, almond cookies, nut brittles and more.

Street sign
The Museum of Macau is also right near the popular ruins, though for some reason it isn't nearly as popular as the church facade. Because it's further away from the food and samples, perhaps.

Canons on Monte Fort, Macau
The museum is set on Monte Fort, a 16th century military fortress that has left many remnants of its past behind. There are impressive views of Macau to be seen from here, and as ever, casinos in sight.

Views from Monte Fort, Macau

Views from Monte Fort, Macau

Views from Monte Fort, Macau

Ruins of St Paul's, Macau

Malay steamed cake at yum cha at restaurant in Fu Hua Hotel, Macau
Our brief trip to Macau was typified by yum cha and lots of it. Two consecutive mornings of yum cha in two different venues was enough for me to be craving a meat pie (weak, I know).

But rather than trolleys, chosen dim sum and dishes are elected and ticked off a menu which is then handed to the kitchen, ensuring steaming hot dishes arriving fresh to order. Not as democratic and visual-driven as we know it in Australia, but a feast all the same.

Yum cha at Ah Yat Abalone Restaurant, Fortuna Hotel, Macau
The way it went was that someone would normally be in charge of all the ordering, and food would turn up in pretty random order. It doesn't take long for the lazy susan to fill up with dumplings, buns and vegetable dishes; most plates with designated serving chopsticks for hygiene too.

Claypot rice dishes at Ah Yat Abalone Restaurant, Macau
And just as we had stuffed our faces, the claypot rice arrives - three steaming hot clay pots with rice cooked in it and assorted toppings, like lup cheung Chinese sausage, egg and pork mince, and stewed chicken pieces added on top.

Stuffed as we were, there was no leaving without sampling a few mouthfuls from each hearty, warming bowl before facing the chill of the Macau streets again.
Portuguese custard tarts from Padaria New Mario, Macau
The morning of our departure from Macau, we were treated to a sweet, shiny breakfast of Portuguese custard tarts. These were bought by a friend who went a fairly long way, on a scooter, in pouring rain.

Had I known the circumstances, I wouldn't have requested the tarts - which I initially experienced many years ago in the very same city. But I think that made me appreciate them even more.

Portuguese custard tarts
I find it difficult to have more than two of these seriously cloying tarts, with wobbly eggy custard and delectable burn marks in flaky, crunchy pastry shells, even washed down with hot tea. But what a fortifying way to start a day where the weather outside was hideously cold and rainy.

Egg stall at street markets, Macau
We still made it to the outdoor markets, which I also remembered from my last trip, where the fashion was definitely puffy jackets. Everyone wore one and it was the silly tourists freezing their bits off while the locals just went about their day of groceries and other routine.

The markets were fantastic though; a combination of fresh food (lots of vegetables), snacks, socks and accessories, clothes (did I mention puffy jackets?) and almost anything else you could think of.

But I was really on the lookout for the stall that eight years ago served me the best tofu fa tofu dessert that I have ever had.

Tofu fa stall at street markets, Macau
And my goodness, I was so stoked (or cold) that I was jumping when I spotted the familiar face of the stallholder, who seemed to have added brightly coloured steamed cakes to her offerings of tofu fa and soy bean milk.

We find out that she's had a stall there for almost 20 years; and I'm pretty sure she was amused that some Australian would remember her dessert from a random visit eight years ago.

Tofu fa
What was so good and memorable about this bowl of tofu in syrup? The warm, silky, white slices of delicate, subtle tofu, cut jaggedly (yet cleanly) from a whole pot with a flat ladle, and especially the ginger-tinged sugar syrup that's spooned over the imperfect bowl that's scoffed standing in front of the stall.

Another eight years will be too long between us, tofu fa from a random stall at a random street market in a part of Macau I really don't know.

Dragon's Treasure multimedia show at City of Dreams, Macau
It's not a trip to Macau without venturing into at least one casino. Well, we made it to (the sort of half Aussie) City of Dreams for the confusing Dragon's Treasure show (as in, who on earth are they trying to entertain?), the stunning Venetian, and one smaller downtown one of which the name eludes me. Macau in a flash of an overnight trip.

More Asia tripping to come in Hong Kong and Malaysia.


john@heneedsfood said...

I've got to say the Malay steamed cake is impressive. Geez, it it really 18 years since I was there last?

chopinandmysaucepan said...

Eggs tarts washed down with tea?? Tina, is that you?? I would join you if we wash it down with a sticky. Look forward to your Malaysia tripping.

gastronomous anonymous said...

wow that egg tart glistened!!! i really want an egg tart now. Love macau - so many places to eat :)

Anonymous said...

I love tofu fa! it's always my favourite especially when the tofu is still in nice large pieces. great post!

Tambourine said...

PORTUGUESE EGG TARTS!!! I love LOVE Portuguese Egg Tarts. One of the great many things left over from colonialisation. =)

Two fit and fun gals said...

omg those eggtarts YUM!

Vivienne said...

id like to have portuguese tarts + tofu fa for breakfast thank you. :) thanks for the glimpse of macau...ive never seen pictures of it before haha i just keep hearing about its casino and food!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I miss the trolleys and while the tick boxes make is easier there's something so fun about seeing what's lying under the steamer lids. Mr NQN is obsessed with that dau foo fah! He still talks about it to this day!

Tina said...

Hi John - It's yum in a comforting kinda way too :)

Hi chopinandmysaucepan - Um, it was a pre-brekky snack... :S

Hi gastronomous anonymous - Yeah, wish I had more time there to properly explore it.

Hi minibites - My fave part is the gingery syrup :)

Hi Tambourine - Who doesn't?! :)

Hi Two fit and fun gals - Sure were!

Hi Vivienne - Yeah, that sort of covers it... :S

Hi Lorraine - That particular tofu fa?!

missklicious said...

Lovely pics of Macau!

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Aww thanks for sharing, love it how there's a little Portugal not far from mainland China. And that is so sweet of your friend to have gone out of their way to get you the tarts. Hmm don't know what I'd like better, the portuguese or chinese egg custard tarts =)

Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

Ahh your post took me down memory lane. Loved Macau although it was a day trip from Hong Kong.

That steamed cake is begging to be eaten!

Dumpling Girl said...

Stunning photos, the food looks delish especially the tarts, yum.

jenius said...

OMGosh those Portuguese custard tarts are talking to me.

Tina said...

Hi missklicious - Thanks :-)

Hi Angie - Definitely Portuguese for me :-)

Hi Corinne - Mine was a pretty short trip too, not nearly enough to explore the eats.

Hi Dumpling Girl - Thanks!

Hi Jen - What do they say? ;-)

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

I remember when I was last in Macau it was in January as well. The temps hovered around 10 degrees for the few days we were there and it was windy, very windy! I was also suffering indigestion so had lost my appetite completely and was unable to fill up on all the foods on my hitlist =(

Tina said...

Hi mademoiselle délicieuse - I was struggling to get around with the amount of layers I was wearing!


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