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Chef David Wong – Introducing the world to Macanese food and its unbeatable secrets

Chef David Wong
Chef David Wong

I see art in almost everything. An artist need not always be armed with paints and a brush; they could be seen donned in an apron and cooking up a storm in a kitchen whom we call chefs.

Food history and culture has always fascinated me. Many of my feature stories related to cuisines have in-depth research that has led me to some fascinating stories from the pages of history.

On the occasion of World Tourism Day, The Lifestyle Portal is proud to share an exclusive tête-à-tête with internationally renowned Chef David Wong about his earliest food memories and the beauty of Macanese cuisine.

Chef David Wong holds a Master Degree in Hospitality Management from the University of Birmingham, UK, Advanced Certificate in Wines and Spirits from London’s Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and a Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE) from the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute.

He is currently the Executive Assistant Manager for the Food & Beverage division and is also teaching various F&B subjects and different WSET certificate levels.

His unbeatable knowledge of Macao’s culinary delights is captured in his cookbook, The Art of Modern Portuguese Cuisine, which won the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in 2012 and now in its second edition.

David is also the founder of the Macao Culinary Association and on the panel for @TheWorlds50Best Restaurants and an approved tutor for the Wine and Institution Trust, UK (WSET).

How did it all begin?

Born in Hong Kong, Chef David and his parents relocated to the UK when he was 4 years old. “My parents always had Chinese restaurants so I was brought up in the restaurant business. But I always knew I wanted to be a Western chef,” smiles Chef David.

The first dish Chef David Wong made

Chef David recalls, “I went to college in the UK for the City and Guilds 706/1 which was an introduction to cooking and I think the first ever dish I ever cooked was Apple Crumble and to this day, I still love the dish! I have it for our culinary classes so cooking it all the time.”

Fond memories of food as a child

One of my favourite scenes from the film Ratatouille is when the arrogant food critic Anton Ego takes a bite of the humble dish Ratatouille, that instantly transports him to his childhood days when his mother would lovingly prepare it for him. With no dialogues, just a few seconds of a scene like that shows how food, memories and childhood are so deeply rooted in our minds and hearts. Here too, I couldn’t help asking Chef David about his earliest memories of food and here’s what he shares, “My earliest memories were of my mum’s cooking. She is Hakka so we had many Hakka dishes which I still love today such as the braised pork belly with black beans and preserved vegetables.”

What makes Macanese cuisine so unique?

Portuguese Egg Tart

Macanese cuisine is distinctive of Macao. It is an amalgamation of Portuguese cuisine infused with a Southeast Asian touch and the Lusophone regions.

The distinguishing recipes are the result of the incorporation of spices and ingredients brought by the Portuguese sailors during their trips to Macao. This was with an aim to recreate the Portuguese dishes when they arrived in Macao.

“The ingredients and seasonings of Macanese cuisine include those from Europe, Africa, India, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, Latin America as well as Macao. Its 450-year old cuisine with its roots in Portuguese cooking traditions is arguably one of the world’s oldest fusion cuisines. It’s a combination of the Portuguese cuisine with the ones from the countries where the Portuguese had colonies,” explains Chef David.

You must be wondering whether Macanese cuisine has any secret sauces or spices that makes it unique, Chef David mentions, “Experimenting is the key. Try using traditional Portuguese ingredients such as olive oil, wine, vinegar, olives, and incorporate it with traditional Chinese ingredients such as soya sauce, chilli, and sesame oil.”

Famous Macanese street food to try

Chef David recommends some of the more famous street food dishes such as Pork chop bun, Curry beef brisket noodles and Egg Tarts. In vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, he suggests Minchi, African Chicken and the local Egg Tarts; and no wonder, that in 2017, Macao was declared as a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO.

For your next international trip, how about planning one to Macau and witness it for yourself the exotic cuisines from Macau. Until then, try out a couple of recipes he has shared exclusively with our readers and drool away.

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Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

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