Our Desk | Primacy of the wet market

Anthony Lam

I have not had the chance to congratulate my friends and acquaintances in the culinary industry, who have made the food industry of Macau what it currently is today.

At the time of writing, some restaurants in Macau have just been awarded accolades given by an accreditation body in China. The recognition is called the Black Pearl Awards. A month or so ago, part of these restaurants, along with some others, were awarded stars – and the recognition that comes with them – by the French Michelin Guide.

I have special attachment to the culinary circle, although I have been (or am) in no way a critical part of it. I have not rated restaurants for either of the above rating bodies, but I have witnessed and experienced the transformation that has taken place in the city’s kitchens.

I think one should agree with the comment – not from my own mouth and I quote my food-critic friend, Myth Chao – that Macau is the place globally to taste the most inexpensive three-star menus.

On the other hand, like them or not, the arrival of all the accreditations in Macau has allowed local people to get to know the depth of culinary culture on their doorstep.

The arrival of these accolades has also brought big names to Macau: Alain Ducasse and Pierre Herme, among others. Gradually, a handful of people start to understand that the value of a macaron is not determined by the privileged ingredients used, but the skillful technique that the chef has to master before they can whip the egg white into meringue.

Also we learned we have the duty to conserve our Macanese recipes.

Allow me to introduce you to a respected chef, Joe Chan, leading the kitchen of a hotel restaurant.

He and his team have been working so hard to retain the essence of Macanese cuisine. Most importantly, they are among the first to bring Macanese cuisine to fine-dining or hotel tables.

Many chefs have said that their favorite place – whichever city they are in – is the local wet market (not even supermarket). Tourists to Tokyo are so obsessed with visiting the Tsukiji Market because they believe they can taste the freshest sashimi there.

Chefs like visiting local markets because they can see and touch the freshest ingredients of the day, besides grabbing an idea of what the local culinary culture is like. They can even chat with hawkers to ask for discounts.

In a globalized world, it is common for chefs to work in foreign places. Visits to wet markets can help them to compile seasonal menus for their restaurants. They can also include local ingredients, if any, into their creations. For example, many chefs include locally caught sole, sometimes called the Macau Sole, in their menus.

I remember I once joined a hotel competition where our instructors, who were cooks from chain hotels in other places, brought us to the Taipa Wet Market to source our ingredients because in just one hour’s time, we would be cooking our dishes with the chefs.

We were brought to the market not only because of our sourcing requirements. It was also an excuse for the chefs to take a peek at our food. Those chefs from other places wanted to visit in order to understand more about Macau’s everyday culinary culture.

Categories Opinion