Friday, January 6, 2017

In Between Meals

I am not exaggerating when I said we have been eating non-stop whilst in Macau for a quick 36 hours. As soon as we got off the ferry and checked in to our hotel, we quickly met up with our friend E (of @e_for_eat) who’s settling in with her job in Macau for a morning mini food crawl.

Our first stop is this hole-in-the-wall café called Hon Kee (漢記), tucked away in a remote village in Coloane with a row of now-abandoned shipyards. The place wasn’t the easiest to get to without a car – our taxi driver mumbled and complained about its remote location and demanded us to pay extra because of that – but that only added to this sense to uniqueness to this outdoor café located at the end of a small dirt road.

The place was pretty run-down at best, with a makeshift dining area with tables and stools under the tree shades and plastic canopy right next to the stilt construction which was once the dock. Further back was the open-air kitchen made out of bricks with only the simplest equipment. The signature item was the ”hand-whipped coffee”, done in southeast Asian style with instant coffee powder, sugar, boiling water and evaporated milk, then whipped by hand to create a thick crema of sort. It was extra sweet like a good old kopi but with extra volume from the whipping. They got a few simple food items too – mainly noodles and toasts – among which I thought the sardine toasts were lovely, something more special from a Macanese cha chaan teng, I suppose, with the cans of oil-preserved sardine being an import into the local community from the centuries of Portuguese colonial rule.

Of course, we didn’t come all the way here just for a cup of coffee and toasts. As we walked down the slope we dropped by a little shop by the pier called Loja de Peixe Tong Kei (棠記), one of the traditional dried seafood specialist shops in this old fishing village now already in its third generation. The place and the surroundings reminded me of Tai O, the fishing village in Hong Kong’s Lantau, with stilt houses and all these shops selling seafood products. Even if you are not buying, it’s interesting just to browse around, with a rows of cured mackerels hanging on the wall outside, or oysters carefully tied up in bunches on display and dried. Inside there were more items on sale, including dried fish maw (considered a delicacy here) or jars of salted fish preserved in oil.

Nearer to the Coloane “town center” at the roundabout was the legendary Lord Stow’s Bakery (安德魯餅店). It’s not all that hard to spot since it’s the only place with a line with customers waiting to get their hand on the pateis de natas, or Portguese tarts as known locally. They were somewhat similar to the Hong Kong style egg tarts and crème brulee, with a fluffy pastry shell and slightly-burnt custard filling. Well I wouldn’t come all the way for that – it’s now sold everywhere in Macau and even overseas these days – but since we were here, we may as well follow the crowd and have one as snack, at the original shop which makes this street food world-famous.

It probably sounded a bit scary when I said after a 6-course, 4-hour epic meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant we headed out for even more food. Nothing to do with the quality and quantity of the dinner (quite the contrary, it was fabulous), but somehow we just felt like having some starchy treats to conclude our evening (and yes we do have a crazy appetite). A short hop on the cab we arrived at this popular late-night diner called Fei Jai Man (肥仔文) in the old town district of Taipa, right on time as we managed to fetch their last table. The place was crowded and buzzing with people, even more so later at night with scores of people waiting outside and their cars just parked on the street. There’s nothing more satisfying than a hearty bowl of crab congee, and our new found favorite of sautéed corns with fried garlic and chilies. Only after that we called it a night – 6 meals later in 15 hours since our arrival.

The next day after breakfast at JW Marriott – which was fabulous by the way – and dimsum lunch at the Four Seasons we headed down for more food in the afternoon in Taipa at the famous (and touristy) Rua do Cunha. Last time we had great meals at Café Pui Kei and Café Tai Lei Loi Kei, both of which came recommended by our friend J of Chicken Scrawlings, but this time we decided to try something fancier, at an artisan café/shop called Quarter Square just a block away from the main street. The shop was not just an Espresso Bar but a studio, workshop with retail space with a carefully curated collection of household and design goods. I was drawn in more by the merchandise but  they also had an interesting selection of coffee and drinks. I tried their seasonal Eggnog Latte and it was great, and it was nice spending time just sitting outside, enjoying a bit of the winter sunshine, while stopping and watching as the crowds of visitors speeding through the ever-busy alleys.

And just we were done with our coffee, it's time for dinner...

When? December 3-4, 2016
1. Hon Kee Coffee, Estrada de Lai Chi Vin, Coloane, Macau
2. Loja de Peixe Tong Kei, 36 Largo do Cais, Coloane Village, Macau
3. Lord Stow’s Bakery, 1 Rua do Tassara, Coloane Village, Macau
4. Fei Jai Man, 460 Avenida Dr Sun Yat Sen, Vila de Taipa, Macau
5. Quarter Square, 89 Largo Maia de Magalhaes, Taipa, Macau

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