macau: pork chop bun, egg tarts
After getting back to Hong Kong from Singapore, Grace and I swung through Zhu Hai on our way to Macau. In a period of 6 hours, I went through 3 customs desks. Though I had never been to Macau, I had heard that it was flourishing as the “Las Vegas of Asia.” And it certainly has the gambling and large hotels to compete. It doesn’t quite have the appeal of the Vegas strip, but hotel hopping and people watching are universally fun.
We had a room at the Wynn. And because of a travel agent error, the hotel decided to give up and upgrade; oh what an upgrade.
The room was huge (making hard to photograph) - views of the city, luxury bathroom, seating area, private bar and… private massage room. WHAT?! Upgrade indeed. After seeing our room I considered staying in, but my need for food conquers all.
Grace had been to Macau before and whenever it is mentioned brings up the greatness of the pork chop bun, one particular pork chop bun. Apparently everybody else had heard of its greatness too.
Pork chop buns are sold in many shops all over, but Cafe Tai Lei Loi Kei may be the best known and most popular. The buns go on sale at 3pm, but the line for the buns begins much earlier. We arrived at ~2:30pm, and a moderate line had already formed. The shop sells until they run out, so there is a touch of urgency in lining up for a bun. The line started moving at 2:45pm.
When the line starts, it moves quickly. Inside a team of ~10 people are furiously preparing the buns in a small open kitchen. They work efficiently and in an assembly line buns are placed into small brown paper sacks. To order, you simply state the number of buns you want, and voila!
The pork chop buns are simple; they are unadorned – pork and bread. GENIUS!
The bun is a soft white roll. It is just a little crusty, but has more of a soft chew. The bread is nice, but plays as a great support of the pork. The pork is soft and juicy. The flavor of the pork is clear and only accented with a touch of salt and spice. Now I see why after all this time Grace always talks of the Macau pork chop bun. Really a fantastic snack. Why did I just order one?
The other snack, which is apparently required eating when in Macau, are the Portuguese egg tarts. Portuguese egg tarts are much like regular egg tarts, except they have a brûlée-style top that adds a bite of caramel flavoring to the dessert. Margaret’s Cafe E Nata is a small coffee shop which has arguably once of the best. The other shop frequently mentioned in the running is Lord Stow’s Bakery which was opened by Andrew Stow. Margaret Wong (owner of Margaret’s Cafe E Nata) was married to “Lord” Stow and helped open the original bakery in 1989. When they divorced, she left and opened her own shop (scandal makes food so much more exciting to eat).
We arrived at the coffee shop just 10 minutes before closing. There were only a few tarts left. Before we could even say anything the owner started to yell at us, “if you want a tart you better order now. There are only a few left.” Why are you yelling at me already? Taking my time I walked over the tarts and had my camera in hand just to see the tarts. As I innocently looked at the tarts, she started scolding me for having a camera. So much anger. She was making the soup nazi look pleasant. I did for a second wonder if these egg tarts were worth the verbal abuse.
The crust was buttery and flaky with crispy edges. The egg filling was creamy and sweet with a hints of caramel.
The tarts were worth it.