macau: egg tarts and lots of ginger

Macau has its own wonderful sweets, a gourmet tradition that Christine made sure we did not pass up the chance to try. I didn’t want to miss them either!

Our first sought-out treat was the Macanese egg tart. You can technically find this in Taiwan – though that’s possibly because the Portuguese were there as well – but they don’t hold a candle up to the ones in Macau. These are the shining torch of Portuguese legacy of egg tarts, and they bear that burden with ease. The best place in the city is a little deli and bakery tucked away in the back streets called Nata. I found a reference to it on the Internet while I was doing food research for our trip and we made it a point to search out this particular venue. They do sandwiches, soups, and other baking, but overwhelmingly, people visit for the egg tarts. The pastry is delicate and buttery and hot – they’re always freshly made, as they fly off the shelves so quickly that lines develop easily while people wait for a batch to finish baking – and the filling a perfect blend of eggs and milk and vanilla, lightly browned from the oven. This restaurant was one of two places we visited twice, as once just wasn’t enough to enjoy this delicacy. We even tried a tart from another place just to see if this place deserves its reputation – it most certainly does. The other tart was OK, but the flavours weren’t there, the pastry was lackluster – totally in a different league. A stop at Nata for an egg tart and a drink is a must in Macau, in my opinion.

Another Macanese traditional food that we heard mentioned a lot but only found in one restaurant (which was the other place we visited twice) was ginger milk. A delicate dessert that consists only of milk and ginger juice and a dash of vanilla. The key is in heating the milk to the right temperature and mixing it with the ginger juice properly. I’ve tried it myself and have, as yet, had no success. There’s definitely a technique to it. Anyway, when it’s done right, the milk gels a bit, and you get a bit of a pudding, warm and ginger-spicy and divine. As I said, we had a few of these in this crowded little lunch counter place off the main square. I just wanted to keep ordering and eating them, they were so good.

People in Macau seem to like their ginger; I didn’t find a problem with this at all. There was a lot of ginger candy in the candy stores that lined the main tourist areas. Our favourite was the coconut ginger candy – pieces of candied ginger dusted in coconut. Once again, that particular ginger burn accompanied by a dusting of shredded coconut. We bought some for friends and some for ourselves. I don’t know about the friends, but I certainly savoured this souvenir to the last bite.

Ginger figures in the last entry here as well. Somewhere else near the facade of the old church that makes Macau so famous is a little ice cream shop named Lemoncello gelato that contains a few unusual flavours. I wish I could give better directions, but I can tell you that it has some wonderful flavours that we haven’t seen in too many other places, flavours like the two we ordered – black sesame and ginger. The ice cream was nice and creamy as well, so both flavours really came through and complimented each other; the ginger burned, the sesame soothed. Each mouthful was a treat to take in, and there were frowns when it was all done. It made a nice break in the middle of a hot summer day spent walking around town.

I look forward to the day when I can make these myself, as I think it’ll be a long time before we return to Macau, unfortunately. The thought of ginger milk whenever I want it makes me drool with anticipation, though…

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