It's early afternoon on a cloudy Saturday in Macau - not your typical day for a leisurely stroll - but in Taipa Island's city centre there's a long queue in front of Kok Li-hou's small eatery. 'Sometimes the queue crosses the street, with dozens and even hundreds of customers,' a local resident says. The pavement is partly blocked by the small shop's tables, which are occupied by people eating something out of small, light brown paper bags. 'We're here because we heard this is the place for pork chop buns in Macau,' says Cheryl Tay, a Malaysian-Chinese tourist. She's there with two friends and one mission: to try the famous pork chop buns, which consist of a pork chop fried (with the bone) and sandwiched in a bun. 'I was intrigued. In Malaysia everyone who had been to Macau said we have to come to this place to try the buns. We told our taxi driver we wanted to go to 'the pork chop bun place' and he brought us here without any questions,' says Tay. The shop, named Cafe Tai Lei Loi Kei, opened 40 years ago. Kok, the owner, known to many as Auntie Hou, had many Portuguese and Macanese customers who told her how to cook traditional dishes. When she decided to sell her version of the pork chop bun 20 years ago, she was trying to cater for those customers. 'I just followed what they told me to do, their preferences in taste. It's as simple as that,' she says. Tay thinks the bun is popular because of its simplicity: 'It's very tasty. There is no sauce, nothing else except meat and bread.' But there is a secret to it, says Kok's daughter, Wendy Chan, who now runs the business. 'The bread is baked early in the morning using firewood, which gives it a different feel and taste, just like traditional Portuguese bread. Our oven is small, which is why we can only bake a limited number each day,' she says. 'The pork chops are imported from Brazil and there is something special we put on them to add that extra flavour. That's the secret I won't tell. And because the meat is fried, the bread soaks up some of the grease. That's all it takes.' Each pork chop bun costs HK$15 and only 500 are made each day, except on public holidays, when 800 are sold. 'You have to come early, otherwise you won't get one,' says Chan. Cafe Tai Lei Loi Kei is not the only place in Macau offering cheap, tasty food. In the crowded district of Three Chandeliers on the Macau peninsula is Nga Heong noodle shop, which has occupied an area of less than 400 sqft there since 1978. The shop has five tables, each able to seat four customers. Its speciality is Burmese fish soup noodles. 'My father is a refugee from Burma [Myanmar], and so am I,' says Ip Veng Va. 'We came to Macau in 1976 and two years later we opened this small noodle shop.' Ip used to be the cook, having started his training when he was only 12. Today, he's the boss. 'We prepare Burmese fish soup noodles, among other traditional dishes from my country,' Ip says, surrounded by pictures of himself in the shop with celebrities such as Hong Kong singer Andy Hui Chi-on and TVB actor Moses Chan Ho. After the success of the noodle shop, Ip opened two more restaurants in town. 'Thirty years ago there were more than 10 Burmese-style small eateries in this area. Today there are four.' Fish soup with noodles is a traditional Burmese dish and the version Ip prepares has been passed down by his family. It costs HK$9 and is made by simmering fish with ginger, black pepper and a touch of curry with the whitish fibres from the inside of a banana tree branch (it's tasteless on its own, but it absorbs the flavour of the soup). The noodles are added to order. Other Burmese dishes are on Nga Heong's menu, some revealing the influence of cuisines from countries such as Thailand, India and Vietnam. 'We are also known for our palata [round, flaky Indian bread] with curry beef,' Ip says, adding that his Burmese-style chicken curry is popular too. 'Our customers are residents, students, Burmese and tourists. We try to cater to all tastes. We also have all sorts of Chinese-style dishes and sometimes mix Burmese with Chinese recipes,' he says. Ip employs eight staff in the tiny restaurant, so brisk is the trade. Two islands away, in Coloane, Eileen Stow, sister of the late Andrew Stow, is in charge of another 'big small business'. She sells egg tarts - 3,000 a day - for HK$7 each at her bakery, Lord Stow's. And, she says, hers are the 'original' tarts. 'Since 1989 we've been doing the same thing.' Lord Stow's egg tarts have been copied in Macau and many other places, but Stow isn't worried. 'It would have bothered me 10 years ago, not now,' she says. 'We can't make every egg tart that is sold in Macau. There are even copies of Lord Stow's egg tarts in Chinatown in New York.' The Lord Stow's egg tart sold in Macau is similar - at least in looks - to the Portuguese pastel de nata, but the Portuguese version is sweeter, and because the custard is cooked before being poured into the tart shell, it's similar to pastry cream. Stow says: 'Among other things, Portuguese egg tarts use water and flour thickening - we don't.' She adds that her tart crusts are pressed individually into small metal moulds, 'and our tarts must be finished by hand'. It was Andrew, a pharmacist-turned-baker, who created Lord Stow's egg tart. He started off baking bread, but decided to expand his oeuvre by experimenting with different egg tart recipes until he developed the formula that made the shop famous. His small custard tart was extremely sweet (at least by Chinese standards) and deliberately burned on top. 'People in the bakery said we couldn't sell it because it was burned,' his sister recalls. Nineteen years later, about 60 families rely on the business for their livelihood. 'One of the things I cherish the most was when I was asked to bake an egg tart wedding cake for a Dutch couple's wedding,' Stow says. In Hong Kong, egg tarts baked to Lord Stow's recipe can be found at The Excelsior hotel in Causeway Bay. 'They have been made on the premises since 2006. We don't sell anywhere else [in the SAR],' says Stow, adding that there are franchises in Korea, Japan and the Philippines.