From paddock
to palate

Prominent chefs in Macao’s famed food scene are taking menus back to basics for sustainability’s sake

For several decades and, in some cases, three generations, Macao’s longstanding family-owned restaurants have been satisfying the taste-buds of loyal locals with freshly-prepared meals while keeping sustainability in mind and food waste to a minimum.

The popularity of these relatively small and often unassuming eateries - and the delicious recipes they create - was so overwhelming that some were invited to open a larger kitchen and restaurant closer to a new clientele – Macao’s international visitors.

By relocating, they were well placed to attract the interests of a global audience, thus spreading the word of Macao’s traditional cuisine.

Two such restaurants – Dragon Portuguese Cuisine and Wong Kun Sio Kung – were so enticing to the Macanese people that it seemed appropriate they “expanded” to be closer to guests staying in the vibrant Cotai district, forming Broadway Food Street within the Galaxy Macao precinct.

As one of Macao’s oldest and best-known Portuguese restaurants, Dragon Portuguese Cuisine has been considered one of the most sustainable.

From its original Macao peninsula neighborhood address, almost hidden from tourists, this eatery was a magnet for locals often forming long queues to treat themselves to such signature dishes as the Portuguese baked duck rice and the homemade curry crab.

It stands to reason that the owners would open a second, larger restaurant on the relatively new 40-restaurant Broadway Food Street, favored by international guests.

This restaurant’s popularity stems from the sourcing of fresh seafood daily. Ideally during times of peak sustainability.

The restaurant is also recognized for limiting unused ingredients, thus reducing or totally cutting out food wastage.

Another to join the move was Wong Kun Sio Kung, which, for over 35 years had been making its noodles using a traditional bamboo pressing technique.

This Michelin-recommended restaurant cooks its Cantonese cuisine fresh every day in order to keep its ingredient wastage as low as possible. Its servings of the widely-popular shrimp roe tossed noodles are legendary, so too the sea crab congee and deep-fried whitebait.

The restaurant’s widely liked chef Cheang Kun Chi speaks with great passion in describing the traditional making technique. A proud member of the Macao Cuisine Association, he said through an interpreter that it was important for such traditions to continue in ensuring a bright future for Macao cuisine and tourism.

There’s little doubt Macao has faced a unique challenge on the fresh food side because of its compactness and geographical positioning on the Pearl River Delta within China’s Greater Bay Area. It has no real farming industry of its own, which means sourcing ingredients can be a challenge.

When it comes to menu terminology in Macao, “local” best refers to seafood and “regional” applies to produce from mainland China.

Instead of looking at ingredients as independent products, chefs are increasingly considering the lifecycle of plants and their many organic uses.

Each year, there has been an upsurge in the number of restaurants taking an “Earth-to-table” approach to food. By teaching Macao’s future chefs this approach there becomes a deeper understanding and respect for the value of every ingredient in a recipe.

This close connection to nature will mean that more chefs will use each item more purposefully and thus create less food waste.

Several of Macao’s restaurants have also embraced meat substitutes, which helps offset some of the natural resources required for raising livestock.

A case in point is The Apron Oyster Bar & Grill at the Galaxy Macao which is using Impossible Meat from California.

Made from water, wheat protein, potato protein, coconut oil, plus a special ingredient called heme which delivers the look, smell and actual taste of beef, Impossible Meat is now being served in over 5000 restaurants worldwide.

The Apron joins its siblings at Galaxy Macao, Cha Bei and The Noodle Kitchen, by featuring Impossible Meat on its menu. At The Apron, the tasty plant-based meat product is showcased in two dishes – the Chipotle Croquette and the Vegetarian Mille-Feuille.

Apart from the novelty of plant-based meat, The Apron prides itself on the quality of its produce which is hand-selected with an emphasis on provenance and sustainability.

Premium oysters are sourced from regions and farms famed for the high standard of their seafood and sustainable farming techniques while the beef is dry-aged in-house and sourced from sustainable herds in some of the world’s prime cattle-raising locales.

Put simply: every ingredient is sourced from the very best farms around the world; those committed to the quality and care of their farm to fork operation.

Bearing all this mind, it’s no wonder Macao is reveling in its designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. That, along with its sheer abundance of restaurants, makes it an ideal place to model sustainable culinary initiatives and help lead the way towards a healthier future.