When you step into Macao, dump all map apps. Follow your nose. And pay attention to the salivary glands revving into an overdrive. The aroma might cause giddiness and the nose might get foxed sniffing all that hangs heavy in the air. Almonds. Butter. Sugar. Jerkies. Candies. Durian. Bacon in a cookie. All this in one street, the street where everyone goes for the sugar dose.
Rua do Cunha. A 5 x 115 metre street where all foodies descend as pilgrims. Named after a Portuguese explorer and located in Taipa Island’s Old Town, the street is cluttered with snack shops and eateries. A few more famed than others. Fong Kei stashes bacon inside his cookies! Sometimes, even lard. The cookie-bacon combo seems like doggy biscuit but once you bite the salt, the bacon, the sugar — everything melts in the mouth into a gooey, delectable mush.
While in Macao, dump all map apps; follow your nose and pay attention to the salivary glands reviving into an overdrive.
In Macao, this, however, is not the only street for foodies. As you step down the ruins of St Paul’s, it will not take too long to forget history. A thin street at the foot of the ruins is all about cookies, nougats and jerkies. Women stand outside their shops, clap loud and holler louder to tempt shoppers into taking home Macao’s favourite souvenir. Another must-take-home from the island are egg tarts. Not just any tart from any store. Egg tarts from Lord Stow’s Bakery in Coloane Island.
Those scrumptiously flaky pastry crusts filled with delicious egg custard centres and topped with crispy crème brulee. At the Stow’s bakery, tarts fly off the shelf. Nearly 14,000 everyday. Sweet-toothed wait in queue patiently for that flaky tart that tom-toms itself as ‘Creator of egg tarts now famous through- out Asia’.
If these tarts are not enough for a hungry gourmand, take the ferry into Hong Kong and walk straight into Honolulu Cafe, a nondes- cript restaurant where people flock for lunch. Finding a seat in Honolulu can be a patience-test but when the kumquat+honey drink arrives on the table, one hungers for more. Iced red bean. Tea+coffee (tea and coffee together) drink. Spicy Spareribs. Beef Satay Nissin noodles. Beef brisket. Pork chops with spaghetti. Do not expect any finery or pleasantries here. Not even a menu in English. But if you can smile and goad enough, the servers will fish one out. The food is good and easy on the pocket. And yes, there’s the egg tart to compensate for the crowd, the hurry and the indecipherable Mandarin-menu.
In Hong Kong, if a Mandarin menu seems Greek, just purr. Or, meow, and a lavish meal will be laid out on the brown table. Do this in the world’s first Hello Kitty Chinese restaurant, where everything is Hello Kitty-ed. The cat is everywhere… and on everything. Standing at the door as a cut out, on tea pots, on pink sauce bottles, framed on the wall as paintings. And on the platter. As many as 20 varieties of dim sum and 40 as main course. The kitty with a pink bow peeps out of steaming wicker baskets as dim sums, gets set on the plate, as a red ribboned rice platter turns into a crunchy cookie, and as sweet large bao with three little baos hidden under its belly. As if all this kitty-dishes weren’t enough, there’s Hello Kitty Bombing Rice, a rice dish plated as kitty’s face served with a sprinkle of popping candies. Apple/mango/peach candies are sprinkled just before serving and literally explode in the mouth.
And there’s the Hello Kitty Bombing Rice, served with a sprinkle of popping candies, that literally explode in the mouth.
Sitting in the Hello Kitty restaurant and picking the cat-shaped dim sum with wooden chopsticks, I remembere Mark Twain’s pithy saying: “If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much”. In this Hong Kong restaurant, the cat sure does not say anything, but she sure is delicious.
Suddenly, I am distracted by a thought, the thought of a drop-dead gorgeous moustachioed man who made every woman weak in her knees. I want to go where he once went. On Asia’s first funicular that whooshes up The Peak that is perched at 428 metres above sea level. Hollywood heartthrob Clark Gable was at The Peak for his 1955 film Soldier of Fortune. The funicular races up the hill in seven minutes. At the top, celebrities stand beyond a red carpet at Asia’s first permanent Madame Tussaud’s. Mahatma Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi stand a few feet apart and Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan occupies another corner.
But I was not at The Peak for them. It was for the food. Food with a view. There’s a restaurant called Bubba Gump Shrimp (don’t ask me any whys about the name!). Another called Fujiyama Mamma (don’t ask again, please). Forgive the names, order anything and peep out of the window for a spectacular view of the harbour and the skyscrapers that take Hong Kong to the top of most-skyscrapers-in-a-city list.
And when the fireworks light up the Hong Kong sky, step into Harbour City Mall and order a pizza at Jamie’s Italian. He is the naked chef. Jamie Oliver of The Naked Chef cookery show fame. That’s the perfect way to end a Hong Kong night. Fireworks in the sky. And pepperoni arranged tidily on a thin crust pizza at Jamie’s.
Pictures by Preeti Verma Lal