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Macao on a Plate

by Annabel Doling

Hong Kong: Roundhouse Publications, 1995, $29.95


Subtitled A Culinary Journey, the book allows you to meet and taste Macau's varied table without reading a single recipe. Doling delves into culinary heritage, delicacies, spices, mores, and more. Established by the Portuguese in 1557, this place once rivalled Venice, she says, as the most entrepot in the world.

The book starts with a foreword by Ken Hom who referred to the book appropriately as the "weaving of all (culinary) elements to create sumptuous descriptions of Macau and its food." He goes on to say that "Macau on a Plate is perhaps the best introduction to the cuisine of Macau and ...your indispensable guide into this uniquely delicious world."

Seven chapters starting with politics and power, called The Bargaining Table, and ending with the tables of Macau, Taipa and Coloane (an outer island), and their Gourmet Circles weaves from Portugal's colonial heritage through home comforts, the wine and the soul of this land and its cuisine. There is information about chefs, families, tea houses, patisseries, and even about local manners. The end pages include restaurant listings, maps, and a very fine index.

As you read, you can almost smell the cinnamon, cloves, chili, and saffron; almost taste the African Chicken, the Vietnamese-style crab dishes, the stews, and the bacalhau. You can savor the melding of Chinese, Indian, African, and Portuguese, see and read about typical crossing in culinary terms and tastes, and enjoy the sweets many folk miss when they think of Chinese foods.

To read about salads such as Salada de Orelha de Porco (pig's ear salad), Sarapatel (pork tripe made the Goan way), and Chef Leong's Sauted Shrimps and Scallops with Honey Beans and Fungus is to taste the mix and meld of the land. Balichao or shrimp paste is the only flavoring in Lacassa noodles, other than a few sprigs of coriander, and you think you are in Portugal. Read about and sip the Vinho Tinto, intensely fruity and not the top of the wines of the world, but the places it is served and the frequency of use, tell that a wine culture does exist, at least for those dishes with Portuguese flavor, water and beer with Macanese taste, and tea for things Chinese.

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