Building up Bacalhau in Macau

Cotai Strip’s glitzy casinos, luxury hotels, and fancy restaurants all resemble the hip scene in Las Vegas strip. But is there room for tradition in Macau’s latest tourist romping grounds?

Foreigners visiting Macau are curious to sample traditional Portuguese and Macanese dishes.  Travel guides point them to the small town of Coloane, away from the gambling scene to small hole in the wall restaurants.  Catering to tourists’ desire for authenticity, most hotels now offer a token Bacalhau dish on their menu.

Taking it a step further, when the Four Seasons Hotel Macao opened two years ago, it devoted Belancao , an entire restaurant devoted Portuguese and Macanese food. The buffet spread features creative yet traditional ways with Bacalhao, the salted cod the Portuguese loves. 

Portuguese Assistant F&B Manager Ricardo Pina says, “There are 1001 ways to serve Bacalhao in Portugal.”  Today, he presents me with four cod dishes created by Chef Gil Raposo, originally hailing from the hotel’s Lisbon property. 

Pasteis de Bacalhau, commonly called Cod Fritters, is served in many restaurants around Macau.  This bite-size potato and cod fritters are perfect finger food, paired with a glass of Muros de Melgaco , a Vinho Verde from Portugal. An unexpected combination of poached egg, coriander and the salted cod results in a pleasantly refreshing soup called Sopa `A Alentejana . As in any meat, the thicker prime cuts of Bacalhau are naturally more expensive.  The trick is not to fiddle much with this premium fish.  Even a simple dish like Bacalhao A’ Lagareiro  is a treat, for the pure flavors of the grilled cod enhanced by sweet Portuguese olive oil and garlic.  Similarly, the cod can be baked with sautéed potatoes, bell peppers, onions and garlic for a healthy, yet tasty meal. 

“In Portugal,we do serve turkey for Christmas. But the highlight should and always goes to Bacalhau.  It is a prized ingredient the Portuguese value,” Pina explains. Watching the trends around him, this Portuguese hotelier observes, “Many hotels in Macau are starting to realize that serving the beloved Bacalhau adds prestige to their menu.”

© Photo: Maida Pineda