A birthday to remember. My lovely grandpa, Tito Herculano da Luz, a father of eight kids, devoted his major lifetime cooking at home. His unique cooking technique and aroma flavours aroused my interest for years searching for his “Cookbook”.
It was not easy at all.
Our family recipes have been almost closed guarded and kept locked in memorable casual talks. Amazingly, all recipes were orally passed down from generations to generations, originated from my great grand mum.
Macanese food were often defined as “blend mix of Portuguese and Chinese” which from my understanding was not just that.
My great grandma was one of the stereotype housewives back in the 1900s, operate in the kitchen every single day. Her wish is to create and search for “Perfect” Portuguese taste – in a Chinese kitchen. The showcase was doing “Magical cooking” over weekends like family gatherings, special celebrations, Christmas, Baptism, Birthdays etc. All food prepared were commented, gathered and refined from time to time, looking improvements fulfilling the incomplete tastes.
Same does my grandpa recited from his mum’s recipes – transforming existing qualities over and over again under his own set of fascinating rules.
There were no written albums. All makings were explained in Chin-ish (Chinese and English) and Portuguese during gatherings.
When I was six, one plate of Pork Minchi could end up talking for hours, starting from best pick from specific Mr butcher in the Red Market.
Meantime focusing on Prep time. Let’s say, half a handful of minced pork mix with a quarter of beef portion make a good bouncy textures. (but… whats the exact grams?) Right after, marinated meat with few dashes of soy sauce, corn starch, with Worcestershire sauce as the secret recipe. (hold on, whats the exact portion from each, 1 or 2 teaspoon precisely?)
Finally goes to the dish highlight – chopped potato cubes, cut and fried in a size of a 10 cent. Stir fried together with pork in garlic, onion, sprinkle “a little bit of ” salt and sugar in it. Together with “reasonable” amount of dark soy sauce for colouring. Hold on, “Hap Hing” soy sauce! Said adding two drops on the whole dish, will bring the dish up to the next level. (hey, what does it mean by little bit/reasonable?) also don’t think Hap Hing exists anymore, where can I find them?)
This is how da luz recipe were maintained and inherited.
Such practice has been passing down from one generation to another – incorporate with memorable taste in mind; framed closest to grandpa’s unique flavours identified. Other Macanese families were lucky enough having cookbook kept with them nicely written. However to some extent, these dishes still a bit quite complicated mastering them all. In fact, some core steps have went missing like the key ingredient plus flavouring technique, the need to trace back and forth everywhere.
The Grandpa’s Kitchen was as simple as that: A Chinese wok, Clay Pot, Rice cooker and Kerosene stoves. He solely kept his favourite top five flavourings with less spice. Soy Sauce of different kinds (dark, light and Maggie sauce), Worcestershire Sauce, Sugar, Salt and grounded pepper with Garlic, Onion standby.
For special occasions uses of Bay leaves, Tumeric Powder, Del Monde tomato sauce and Puree, and of course chourico, Lap Cheong and potatoes, cooking a real perfect meal.
Today will describe some of my grandpa’s top dishes from a Macanese local perspectives. It all differ from other common dishes such as roast piglets, pork-chop bun, African chicken etc – non-Macanese locals and visitors that they only knew!
It went back to the old days where everyone has its own kitchen garden, each family would nurture at least one papaya tree.
When tree blossoms with massive flower pulps (normally summer time for best picks), it was often selected as a main ingredient with an distinctive flavor , accompanying with crab salad.
Alternatively, stir fried in devil curry fish styles are also an ideal fit. Based on Grandpa’s recipe described, his cooking style is either solely pan fried with garlic and onion or accompanying “fresh ingredients of the day”. In Thailand it’s also a common ingredient used in conjunction with other seafood and salad dishes.
A good example dish will be Caranguejo fula papaia, a typical homestyle seafood dish. This fascinating crab plate have used male papaya tree flowers. Otherwise might have gone wasted – most female flowers were kept producing papaya fruits and males were likely thrown away after gardening.
Portuguese stuffed eggs with shrimp
Also namely Ovos de Cavalaria inherited from great grand mother; heard about this fascinating recipe but never tried in my life. Eggs boiled (almost done) placed in cold water.
Cut eggs into half, scoop out the egg yolk, stir evenly and marinated with shrimps, vinegar, onions – all finely chopped with few springs of fresh parsley together.
Add corn starch, soy sauce, oil, seasoned with salt and pepper for stronger taste; (nowadays might consider mayonnaise getting a tangy textures). Fill these mixed paste in each of the half eggs in full and garnish more shrimps, even prawns on the side ready to serve.
For dinner meal choice. Simply cover a layer of tangy oyster sauce on top, having stuffed made eggs hot fried in a pan, compressed till golden crispy look.
This was v2.0 Portuguese appetizers offered during parties, Christmas and Baptisms. That time Portuguese culture drives everything at home. As a chinese young lady, grandma went through all these trial and errors cooking at home everyday for the sake of fulfilling her husband’s and family best eating habits.
To emphasis too, without the knowing of speaking and write portuguese fluently. Wondering how she can she do that honestly!
Spicy pan fried stuffed Prawns
With uses of different uses of spices, coriander, garlic, ginger root, red pepper, garlic, soy sauce and Chinese wines. Trimmed all prawn legs off with scissors with all condiments blended. Here mix with olive oil and grounded pepper, filled the back prawns will all mixes, pressing to compact.
Add olive oil on frying pan, add pre-made stuffed prawns after heated, seasoned with salt and cook 2-3 minute, drying out excessive water. Sprinkle with Chinese rice wine before plated, and ready to serve with prawns colouring with soy sauce.
Pork with Shrimp-Tamarind Sauce
Also namely as Porco balichão Tamarindo, composes of Tamarind with shrimp paste. Unlikely from typical Chinese styles, the dish required special shrimp paste originate from Malaysia, made from Silver shrimp. Marinate pork in bay leaves, salt, cloves, black paper, chinese wines and slow cooked in air tight bags.
Every family has its own ways of making it. The most vital steps was to gently fry the shrimp paste or balichão with the ginger, and add pork and sliced ginger to the pan.
After strained aside, start making the tamarind paste dilution in the pan with sugar, add enough hot water cover the pork and sauce just right on top, until tender. Right after, set tangy sauce on side, strain the sauce and remove the tamarind pulp; mix with the tangy sauce and pork again in the pan, well stirred and ready to serve with spring onion rice.
Family Portuguese Sausage Rice
Also named Arroz de Chouriço, were slightly modified by my mum when I was small. A quick and simple way making Macanese dish using Rice Cookers. Using Del Monte tomato sauce and puree, sliced chinese white cabbage, and Portuguese sausages into small pieces.
The never missed out ingredients, salt and pepper; together with few dashes of Maggie soy sauce in the rice for fresher tastes.
Strongly recommended pan frying Chouriço with garlic and onion. First before dumping all ingredients (bay leaves, chopped veggies, uncooked rice in water) into the rice cooker. Pre-set 40 minutes roughly, wait until tomato sauce soaked dry, having rice end up in soft textures.
Again, it looks like its a simple recipe, well. You’ll never capture it exactly on the spot until you taste it for real. Provided without knowing the exact ingredient measures. The after taste comments just went non-stop and definitely have to take it from there!
Other Fascinating dishes
I probably wont able to finish this blog if grandpa did not recite it out loud. Like other Macanese families, best dishes takes practice to gain authentic taste.
Red Bean and Pork knuckle Stew (Feijoada) : Include mixed shoulder pork cuts, kidney beans, Chouriço, carrot and Chinese cabbage.
The main essence is the broth. All prepared under tonnes of good pork bones, boiled in water with bay leaves and carrots. Stir fried unpeeled tomatoes with onion and garlic, together with Chouriço, tomato paste with added water. When all done, put them all in the pot stew in couple hours, with enough water covering the surface. Ready to serve with rice or bread.
Beef brisket with white chicken peas (Obrada Feijao), a more simple dish to make in an hours time. Again the essential part was the brisket where needs to strain from boiled water (for couple minutes). Cut in triangular, orderly shape. Canned chicken peas welcomed, preferably water all strained, ready to cook altogether with beef brisket when almost done.
Tumeric sliced pork with Potatoes (Porco Bafassa): The spotlight of making a good tumeric pork was:
1)the step by step method and 2) sufficient time marinating loin pork in airtight bags. Simply add Turmeric, salt and pepper and rub into the pork fibre. Add the rice vinegar and turn the pork in the marinate, coat all sides from time to time. For better results, kept in the fridge for couple hours.
Remember to pan fried it until hash brown colour on crispy surface. A process very hard to make it right, if needed, fried potatoes into golden, crispy taste with salt and pepper.
It has been never easy to write a cookbook. During entire research, I enjoyed the story telling from all Da Luz family, getting the “real recipes” through conversations. Within the Macanese communities, we never get a final consensus who got the most traditional kind. Indeed its always unique every time.
That’s what “The Tacho’s Vision” talking all about. To extract the bests of Cantonese ingredients, pursuing Macanese historical culture exposure, Portuguese taste and its various cooking techniques. It’s also a tool through an occasion, to bring all things together via story telling.
A Final walkthrough “how to make the yummiest Tacho”:
Tacho (Chau Chau Pele), a cozido (Portuguese stew) of all sorts; with Chinese cured meats, chicken, cabbage and puffed pork skins. Tacho is the end product of Portuguese concept. Made in Macau in a Chinese Kitchen”.
There are lots of variations on said recipe. Tacho replaced with Chouriços to Chinese sausage, Daikon replacing the Turnips. Some Tachos include Pork rind, Pig’s trotters, and Balichão. Fish maw here instead of Pig’s Skin. Other ingredients include cabbages, carrots, lap yuk, chinese sausages, serve with rice. Quite time consuming, at least couple hours and more, but definitely a good fat meal choice for family gatherings.