You can probably tell by the subtitle of the book, from my auntie Albertina, that Traditional Macanese Recipes is a personal volume by a well-bred lady and not by a bearded hipster chef who overuses swear words. The author, whose full name is Cintia de Carvalho Conceição do Serro, was born in Macau in 1943, and learned to cook from her aunt, Dona Albertina Martins de Carvalho Borges.
Serro writes, “I like cooking immensely, above all Macanese food, not only because it is delicious, but for the nostalgia it evokes. Foods like porco balichao tamarinho take me all the way back to when I was growing up. Moreover, Macanese cuisine will always be a unique mark of my heritage and my identity [...]
“Interestingly, the history of most Macanese recipes is vague [...] I have consulted numerous contemporary publications on the subject, including the notebooks from the 1930s left to me by my family. All the publications generally say the same things to the effect that Macanese cuisine is an ancient and diverse culinary art which started sometime in the 16th century. Furthermore, the art of Macanese [cuisine] is as old and diverse as its people. We credit our diversity to Portugal’s great expansion around the 16th century, a period when there were a succession of Portuguese trading posts and forts from Africa to Japan. A huge cultural exchange evolved between all these outposts along the Portuguese trade route [...] Inevitably, customs intermingled through marriages and business partnerships. The diversity of the Macanese people as well as Macanese food rose from this fusion of races.”
As you look through the recipes, it’s easy to see various influences on the food, and how Portuguese cuisine made its mark on other cultures. Braised duck is cooked with shrimp paste and pickled ginger, while a deboned chicken is stuffed with rice, two types of Chinese sausage, dried scallops and dried mushrooms before being flavoured with soy sauce. A recipe for deep-fried breaded pork chops shows how Japanese tonkatsu came to be. There’s an extensive section on old-fashioned desserts (although, sadly, nothing on Portuguese egg tarts), with recipes for milkless egg custard, coconut pudding, fruit cake and almond gelatine. Other recipes include Macau-style prawns, turmeric dried cod, minced meat with fried potato cubes, oxtail stew and hot and sour crab.