Macao (also spelled Macau), located on the western side of the Pearl River Delta across from Hong Kong, was the last of the Portuguese colonies. On December 20, 1999, after 442 years of colonial rule, Macao was returned to the Chinese. Today, it is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. It’s a fascinating place to visit where the Chinese
government’s policy of “one country, two systems” enables Macao to retain its capitalistic system administered by the Macao people – similar to Hong Kong. It’s also an interesting blend of Portuguese and Chinese cultures.
When John and I were in Macao in January, we took the one-hour ferry from Hong Kong to Macao and did not need a visa. We stayed at Pousada de Mong-Ha which is operated by the Institute of Tourism. We paid $88 per night for a double room and breakfast.
Since the Middle Ages, the word pousada has been used to mean a place of rest and welcome and today it identifies traditional Portuguese inns. The hotel, located on a hilltop that was once a 19th century Portuguese fortress, has small patios with fountains and traditional Portuguese tile accents.
Typically, Macanese recipes are a blend of Southern Chinese and Portuguese cuisines. Because I expressed an interest in learning about authentic Macao dishes, Chef John Chan of the Institute for Tourism Studies, offered to show us how to make Shrimp and Vermicelli Soup. Because it is meatless, the soup was traditionally served the day before Christmas, at one time a day of abstinence and fasting for Catholics.
Chef John told us, “Macao dishes typically use Asian ingredients and Portuguese cooking methods.”
He also advised, “Remember to taste. The recipe may be the same, but ingredients vary. You can change a recipe to one’s personal taste. It is the variable in the art of cooking. Recipes are very flexible, I like to add crab meat to the soup, but then it is not traditional.”
Shrimp & Rice Vermicelli Soup
1/2 lb rice vermicelli
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs shrimp paste
1 medium onion, diced
2 bay leaves
¾ lb shrimp
2 Tbs spring onion, thinly sliced
3 cups fish stock (may substitute chicken stock)
one small sliced chili
q.b salt, pepper, parsley (the term q.b.in Portuguese recipes refers to the words quanto basta, a Portuguese phrase that translates to “as much as you desire/want.”)
Soak vermicelli in hot water until soft, about 15 minutes, then drain.
Heat olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add shrimp paste and onions simmer about 5 minutes until fragrant.
Add fish stock, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add shrimp, bay leaves, sliced chili simmer – adjust seasoning to taste.
If desired, add a pinch of black pepper and a pinch of sugar to enhance the taste. Cook until shrimp are just pink (careful not to overcook).
Before serving, put vermicelli in a soup bowl and pour shrimp soup over. Sprinkle with chopped onions.
If You Go
Pousada de Mong-Ha, Colina de Mong-Ha, Macao, China; 853/2851 5222; www.ift.edu.mo/EN/Pousada/Home/Index/240