My friends and I were talking about cuisines that aren't represented in Sydney. It was hard to pick one as Sydney is so diverse it seems that we have a restaurant for just about every cuisine.
"How about Kazakhstani?" I ventured as I recalled trying to brainstorm for a Kazakhstani dinner party and being at a loss to find the ingredients.
One cuisine that is a little more accessible taste wise and that isn't represented in Sydney is Macanese cuisine from Macau near Hong Kong. The intriguing thing about this cuisine is that it was borne from Macau being a Portuguese colony and is influenced by the various foods in the areas that the Portuguese visited on their spice routes creating a unique cuisine. So Macanese cuisine is actually a blend of Portuguese, Cantonese as well as some African and Indian flavours. You can get bacalhau- the Portuguese dried and salted cod alongside coconut laced curries and African chicken. Their egg tarts are a cross between the classic Portuguese tart (pastéis de nata) and Chinese egg tarts. And for just one week ending this coming Friday the Four Seasons hotel has brought over two chefs from the Four Seasons Macau to cook traditional Macanese food for diners at Kables restaurant. And that is where we find ourselves one spring lunchtime.
Cod fish fritters with marinated olives, tartare sauce
Macanese food is traditionally served share style, similar to Chinese food. The cod fish fritters are up first and they're small dark golden crumbed fritters with a thin, lightly crunchy coating with a salty kick from the salted cod. They remind me of the oven baked croquettes that I made recently rather than my image of a fritter and they're combined with a thick tartare sauce and sharp, firm green and black olives.
Caldo verde - Portugeuse style potato and kale soup, extra virgin olive oil $16
I must admit that I wasn't really won over by this soup which was a bit grainy. I did like the smoked pork pieces which didn't get a mention on the menu (and fellow diner Heather doesn't eat pork so that was a surprise). It is served with a basket of grilled bread.
Macanese prawns with chilli and garlic
The prawns are served with the shell on and the smaller ones are the easiest to eat as I ate them shell and all. And if you've never eaten a prawn head, eating a dish like this is the time to do so as much of the flavoursome chilli, ginger and garlic sauce and flavour is concentrated in the head and the smaller ones pack a lot of flavour whilst being soft too.
African chicken -curry roasted chicken, potato wedges and salad
When they set the African chicken down the aroma of satay wafts over. African chicken is one of the most well known Macanese dishes and this doesn't disappoint. The chicken is tender and moist inside and served on the bone. The sauce on top of it is a creamy curry coconut peanut sauce that reminds you of a satay but without the spiciness to it. It is served with small potato wedges and salad with halved cherry tomatoes which is what it is typically served with in Macau. This is a clear favourite at the table.
Bacalhau a bras-shreddded cod fish sauteed, scrambled eggs, onion french fries and parsley
Another favourite is the bacalhau which is sauteed shredded salt cod mixed with grated roesti like potatoes with onion and parsley and scrambled eggs. I can imagine eating this for breakfast quite happily and the fish gives it an unusual but appealing flavour.
Minchi-minced pork and beef, cubed potatoes and bay leaf with fried egg (optional)
I wasn't as taken with this as I thought I would be. It was a bed of steamed white rice and some minced pork and beef that tasted mostly of beef and a little cumin, some cubed potatoes and topped with two sunny side up eggs. I thought it went together well when there was some of the egg yolk in the forkful but it was a bit dry without it.
Egg custard tarts
These were what everyone was waiting for! The egg custard tarts although best served when hot are still good. The pastry has layers and layers of crunchy pastry which you can feel as soon as you pick one up. It's like those thousand layered Chinese egg tarts but with a Portuguese custard tart filling - less sweet but still beautifully burnished. People were hiding these under menus so that they wouldn't be pinched ;)
Serradura: whipped cream layered with biscuit crumbs
At first I thought it was a trifle or a tiramisu but it's a simple dessert with layers of whipped cream and then layers of crushed biscuit (which taste like milk arrowroot biscuits) topped with fruit at the end. It's light but it's not my first choice.
Ginger milk curd
Now Mr NQN would love this-I mean I love ginger but this almost made my eyes pop out of my head it was so gingery which meant that I knew Mr NQN would like it. It's a sweet but utterly pungent ginger milk custard and you can taste the fresh root ginger used in it. It is actually made without gelatine but the protease in ginger curdles the milk and sets it much like a soft pudding.
Leite creme - Macanese egg custard with cinnamon
Lastly this was a nice version of the creme brulee. This had orange zest and cinnamon, much like a crema catalana. And since when are four desserts bad for you? ;)
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever tried Macanese cuisine before? And which cuisine do you wish you had available to you where you live?
Macanese Food Week at the Four Seasons
From the 14th-21st October, 2011 only
199 George Street, Sydney, NSW
Tel +61 (2) 9250-3100
Entrees are priced between$16-$18, mains are $28-$32 and desserts $15-$16