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The Other Side of Macau: Part 1.

The Other Side of Macau: Part 1.
The Waterfront Macau
Best accessed via the seacats of Hong Kong, Macau offers a curious mix of Macanese, Portugese and Chinese traditions. But is it worth the journey? Andrew Copestake sets the scene in the first of a three-part series.
 
You can get your fill of goose web and one thousand year old eggs in Macau, but there is nothing essentially Macanese about that; nothing you can’t find in the street stalls of Guangdong province across its border with mainland China.
 
This Special Administrative Region of the Chinese Republic is commemorating the tenth anniversary of its hand over from Portugal this year and whilst the draconian measures that led some of the old colonials to flee back to their villas on the Algarve, their winereries in the Douro, or their flash apartments in Lisbon, have failed to materialise, Macau’s unique cuisine is apparently now under threat.
 
Macau Tatler blames a time-poor population and a diminishing number of indigenous Macanese. Quite where they have gone, nobody knows. Another explanation, however, might be the globalisation of cuisine in general. But the Macanese traditions are not fading so fast that you can’t still get your fill of African Chicken (grilled in piri piri peppers), Stuffed Crab Shells, or Tacho (a hearty stew of meat and Chinese vegetables) at a bewildering constellation of restaurants and hotels.
 
Some of the best run the length of Rua Almirante Sérgio and along Praia Grande as it snakes round Sai Van Lake with the dramatic Largo da torre de Macau as its backdrop. But there are more across the bridge on the fast-developing island of Taipa, and as there is almost nowhere else in the world where you can sample traditional Linguado Macau (fried Sole, served with a crisp green salad) or Minchi (a filling concoction of minced beef, fried potatoes, soy sauce, onions and fried egg),
The Other Side of Macau: Part 1.
Torre Do Macau
serious food fans would be ill-advised to pass over this exotic part of Asia without giving it a second glance.
 
Its culinary traditions can be traced back to Macau’s foundations as a trading gate at the mouth of the Pearl River, where fishermen from the Fujian and farmers from Guangdong met to do their business. The port quickly flourished and became an important part of the Silk Road route to Rome. And because, where sailors gather hedonism swiftly follows, gambling, parties and prostitution soon became popular and the inns and restaurants were pulsating through ‘til sunrise. The city even managed to survive China’s decline as a world trade power continuing to do bustling business with the countries that cling to the side of the roiling South China Sea.
 
But the event that truly cemented its place on the culinary map was the arrival of the Portugese explorers in the early 1550s. They had been searching for suitable trading posts for several decades and Ou Mun, as Macau was then known, seemed ideal. Its harbour was dominated by a temple to the Tao goddess of sefarers A Ma. With such a resplendent deity keeping a watchful eye over their every move the visitors worked their tongues around the colloquial A Ma Gao (place of A Ma); and Macau was born.
 
Three nights in Macau with Virgin Holidays costs from £959 per person.
Price includes scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow direct to Hong Kong, accommodation at the MGM Grande Macau on a room only basis, and return road and boat transfers. Based on 2 adults travelling and sharing a standard room, price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges, which are subject to change. Tel: 0844 557 3861 or visit www.virginholidays.co.uk.
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15 October 2009
By: Andrew Copestake
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