Food advantage

As Macau nears the home stretch of its four-year plan to promote its food culture, it is time to look back at how the destination has fared. Can more be done?

Not all destinations can invite food bloggers to make and keep up a steady stream of posts on its trendiest gastronomic offerings for two years. Macau is one such destination, and for good reason.

The city’s unique position to offer flavours from across the globe led the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) to launch a Gastronomy Map, with recommendations from local food blogger Memo Foodie.

Efforts to promote Macau’s food culture are set to continue as the city approaches the final year of a four-year action plan to extend its gastronomic influence, ensure sustainable food culture, and forge relevant international collaboration.

The MGTO launched the plan in January 2018, following the crowning of Macau as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2017.

In today’s fast-paced world, food might be what can truly differentiate a destination. Cuisine is tied to history, making it harder to replicate than even cutting-edge attractions.

Olinto Oliveira, director-live communications, business events services company MCI Group – experienced at introducing Macanese food culture to business groups – puts it this way: “In today’s global village where truly unique characteristics are hard to find for a destination, (where) retail and (hotels) are becoming more dominated by major global brands, it is food culture and arts which has been highlighted as the true barometers of a destination’s identity.”

Nevertheless, tourism players with larger establishments in the city have been practical in their approach: serving up both local and regional gastronomic favourites with a “wow” factor.

Hong Kong-listed Galaxy Entertainment has continuously emphasised the group’s intention of keeping its Galaxy Macau and Broadway Macau developments Asian-centric, and in the latter case, Macau-centric as well. Their dining options are of course, no exception.

Broadway Food Street is the star dining venue of the latter development. Visitors can sample Macanese favourites: famed sea crab congee from Wong Kun Sio Kung; beef offal from Chi Kei Ngao Chap; and Portuguese-style baked duck rice by Dragon Portuguese Cuisine.

Over at Galaxy Macau, Michelin-starred restaurant Lai Heen is billed “Macau’s highest Chinese restaurant”, referencing its location on the 51st floor of The Ritz-Carlton Macau.

Meanwhile, celebrities have graced the iconic Fook Lam Moon – with a brand name harking back to Hong Kong in the 1940s, and synonymous with authentic Cantonese dishes.

Also located in Cotai is City of Dreams – an integrated resort (IR) developed by Melco Resorts & Entertainment. While City of Dreams seems to emphasise that it offers an international selection, it has its fair share of Asian fare.

One of its signature restaurants, Yí, sits on the Sky Bridge at Level 21 of Morpheus Hotel. Yí offers multi-course tasting menus that change on a daily basis. Certified tea sommeliers are also at hand to proffer the perfect pairing.

With its appeal as a tourism destination riding on its gastronomic culture and offerings, it is pertinent that Macau continues its efforts to promote food sustainability.

Last year, the MGTO partnered National Geographic to launch the The Great Green Food Journey campaign, which saw the sustainable practices of Macanese food outlets being recognised.

Promotional efforts have also been tied in with that of other cities. As part of a tourism alliance with China’s Zhongshan and Zhuhai, the MGTO released a handbook of collective gastronomic offerings last August.

Nevertheless, promotion must work hand-in-hand with operations. The city will face the same challenges as Penang, Hong Kong and Singapore, also known for food culture that is steeped in tradition.

Keeping smaller establishments with traditional practices on the map, decentralising promotional efforts, and encouraging a new generation of chefs to take over the helm are some of them.

While significant effort has been put into broadening the reach of the city’s gastronomic culture, these pertinent issues need to be tackled.

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