Two competitions in Macanese cooking have recently been co-organised by IFTM and the Macau Culinary Association, to promote further among industry practitioners, students and the general public, that local form of traditional cuisine. Such effort is part of the city’s push to consolidate its status as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy.
The 12th Macanese Cooking Competition and the 9th Young Macanese Cooking Competition were both held at IFTM on November 27, attracting a total of 18 participants, including chefs from local restaurants for the former contest, and higher education students in Macao for the latter.
Chef Bhavya Prashant Vichare, who works in Café de Paris Monte-Carlo at the Galaxy Macau integrated resort, claimed first place in the 12th Macanese Cooking Competition. Esteban Lin Ou, a Year 2 student enrolled on IFTM’s Culinary Arts Management Bachelor’s Degree Programme, was crowned champion in the 9th Young Macanese Cooking Competition.
Chef Perry Yuen was the head judge for this year’s Macanese Cooking Competition and the Young Macanese Cooking Competition. “We have worked with IFTM for years to host these competitions, which we hope can enhance the interest of the industry and the public – particularly the young generation – in Macanese cuisine,” says Chef Yuen, former president of the Macau Culinary Association.
He says the 2 contests can also “help nurture a new generation of chefs of Macanese cuisine” and contribute to the improvement of their culinary skills.
He notes: “Macanese gastronomy was one of the major reasons why UNESCO designated Macao as a Creative City of Gastronomy [in 2017]. It is a unique combination between Portuguese and Chinese cuisines, with seasonings and ingredients from many places around the world.”
Each contestant in the Macanese Cooking Competition was required to produce 3 courses in 3 hours, for a judging panel of Macanese cuisine chefs and experts. Making empada de peixe, or “fish pie” in English, was mandatory. It is typically served at either Christmas or other festivities, by Macanese families.
For the Young Macanese Cooking Competition, the participants were asked to prepare 2 courses in 150 minutes: minchi and ladu. The former is usually made with minced beef or pork and diced onions, while the latter is a traditional dessert made with ingredients including soya beans, coconut milk and olive kernel.
According to Chef Yuen, each annual edition of each contest has a fresh dish or set of dishes on the ‘compulsory’ list. Some of the dishes may not be well-known to the general public. “Through the competitions, we can pass on the skills” for making various traditional Macanese dishes “to the next generation,” he adds.
Esteban, the winner of the Young Macanese Cooking Competition, says he took part to benefit from the transfer of that knowledge. “I wanted to challenge myself and I hoped to learn more about the local gastronomy,” says the student, who lived in Guangzhou and Peru before moving to Macao about 2 years ago to study.
“Prior to the competition, I thought that Macanese cuisine was just simply a type of Portuguese dish, but during my research and preparation for the competition, I found out it is more than that,” he notes.
The winner of the Macanese Cooking Competition, Chef Vichare, took part with the aim of polishing her culinary skills. “It’s a valuable experience,” she says. Chef Vichare adds it taught her “how to better organise and plan everything, which will be helpful to my work”.
She is no stranger to the style of Macanese cuisine — her home country India also boasts cuisines with heavy Portuguese influences, such as the food in the southwestern state of Goa.
“I had my first job in Macao in a Portuguese restaurant in Galaxy Macau,” says Chef Vichare, who came to the city in 2018. “I’m definitely interested in the Macanese and Portuguese cuisines, and what I hope to do now is to learn and explore more.”