An Authentic Local Experience of Macao

Text: UM Reporter Charlotte Lin, Senior UM Reporter Savanna Lok │ Photo: Senior UM Reporter Savanna Lok, Editorial Board

Dear new students, welcome to Macao! Macao is known as a city where East meets West. In addition to studying and living on the UM campus, we encourage you to explore the city and experience its intangible cultural heritage, including Macanese gastronomy, herbal tea brewing, and Cantonese Opera.

Portuguese egg tarts with Macao characteristics

Macanese Gastronomy

After arriving in Macao more than 400 years ago, the Portuguese started intermarrying with people of different cultural backgrounds, and as a result a unique Macanese community began to take form. The preparation of Macanese food utilises Portuguese cooking methods and incorporates ingredients and cooking methods from Africa, India, Malaysia, and the local Chinese population. The dishes usually involve the use of many different spices, including curry, cinnamon, clove, saffron, ginger, pepper, and soy sauce, and can be steamed, stir fried, baked, stewed, or deep fried. Notable dishes include Portuguese curry chicken, African Chicken, and Portuguese egg tarts with Macao characteristics.

You can find herbal tea shops everywhere in Macao

Herbal Tea Brewing

Herbal tea is a general term for tea drinks made purely from Chinese medicinal herbs. Legend has it that more than 1,000 years ago, Hong Ge, a Taoist pharmacist from Eastern Jin, moved south to the Lingnan region and dedicated himself to the study of different epidemic febrile diseases in the region. His skills and prescriptions involving herbal tea have been passed down through the generations. Guided by Chinese medical healthcare theory, Chinese Medicinal Tea has antipyretic and antitoxic effects, while quenching thirst and dissipating heat and humidity in the body through consumption. Today, herbal tea remains popular in the Lingnan region. In addition to visiting herbal tea shops in Macao, you can also find herbal tea beverages in the supermarket on the UM campus.

Cantonese operas are often performed in Macao in celebration of folk festivals (photo provided by Mr Tang Va Chio)

Cantonese Opera

Cantonese operas are often performed in Macao in celebration of folk festivals and birthdays of deities, such as Mazu and Tam Kung. This artform is discussed in detail in the classical Chinese opera course offered by UM’s Department of Chinese Language and Literature. In addition, the Chinese Opera Society under the UM Students’ Union holds events on a regular basis to promote Chinese opera, including Cantonese opera, in order to disseminate traditional culture. In addition to being on the representative list of national intangible cultural heritage, Cantonese opera has been inscribed onto the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Besides Macanese gastronomy, herbal tea brewing, and Cantonese opera, there are also other forms of intangible cultural heritage for you to explore. In 2017, the Macao SAR government released an inventory of Macao’s intangible cultural heritage. The list currently comprises 15 elements.