Tag Archives: Macau

A Trip to Macau at The Bakery at Fat Rice

MacauWe visited Fat Rice a while ago, and since then they have opened up The Bakery at Fat Rice (2951 W. Diversey Ave.) serving unusual Macanese-inspired treats. The Bakery at Fat Rice has a cute retro pink logo and an inviting handpainted wooden “Pastelaria” sign featuring an egg tart in a starburst (swwn below). The inside is brightly colored, with big windows, and brightly-colored floral oilcloth seats. What could be more inviting?

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The main draw is the pastry selection – and there is a large pastry case filled with goodies taking up one wall. They also have tasty coffee, juice and tea drinks, plus the hard-to-find chocolate Milo drink that is ubiquitous in Asia. On our first visit, we wanted to try some of the sweet and savory dishes. We ordered a Pork Floss Pig bun ($6) – an interesting combination of savory and sweet topped with shredded dried pork. Plus, it is shaped like a pig, who could resist? We also sampled a coconut-topped sweet roll filled with bright purple ube yam paste ($5). Both were delicious. However, this is only scratching the surface – if you really want to go savory you can get a corned beef or hot dog roll. Other sweet options include a guava bun and a bolo menino: a pine nut, almond and coconut cake.

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Finally, we get to the main event – the egg custard tarts. Known as pasteis de nata in Portugal, these came to Macau through Portuguese explorers, where they then found their way into China to become the ubiquitous egg tart. At each stage of travel, these tarts are somewhat different. The Portuguese egg tart is more custard-y while the Chinese variety is less sweet and heavier on the egg. The Macanese variety tends to fall between the two. Though tasty, the Fat Rice Bakery version ($3) reminded us more of a Chinese egg tart. We prefer the Portuguese sweetness, but truth be told, we have had many better, cheaper egg tarts.

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Everything we tried was very good, but the $4-6 per-pastry prices struck us as a little steep.  However, the originality of these pastries in the Chicago bakery scene is really what makes them stand out. We will keep The Bakery at Fat Rice in mind for special occasions!

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Macanese cuisine at Fat Rice in Chicago

MacauI jumped out of a moving car to get a table at Fat Rice (2957 W. Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL ). That is how crowded the place can be get, and how legendarily hard-to-get the tables are. But at 5pm on a Wednesday we need not have worried, as we easily got a table for 2 just when walking in (we were some of the first people there, and by the time we left at 7, it was still not full). The tables at Fat Rice are communal, and the decor is simultaneously sparse and kitschy, with golden pigs, Chinese pottery and a Portuguese rooster holding pride of place.

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Fat Rice has received a slew of accolades, including being one of Bon Appetit’s top new restaurants in 2013. The menu features the cuisine of the former Portuguese colony of Macau, a history that lends it a unique fusion of Portuguese and Chinese cuisines. Short of taking a trip to the luxurious island, there aren’t many places to sample Macanese food. To help, the menu at Fat Rice is broken into several sections, small plates, noodles and entrees to share. There were also a rotating number of specials.

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The squash special – those aren’t noodles – they are ribbons of squash!

We had a tough time deciding what to order, and we went with a few specials, since we hoped the other dishes would be there on our next visit! Some of the items that stood out (that we did not get) included the linguiça appetizer with ginger and olive ($8), the piri-piri chicken with spicy tomato and peanut sauce ($24) and the Malay vegetable curry with sweet potato and cashews ($16). However, when making our order, our waitress pushed us to order a vegetable dish, saying we had too many heavy foods (not sure if this was a personal thing or a management directive). In the end, she may have been right, but we were not super excited to be told multiple times we had ordered incorrectly. I think she was also a little crestfallen when we substituted vegetables for one of the more expensive meat dishes….

Rolled rice noodles

Rolled rice noodles

To start off with, we ordered a classic dish, the handmade hand-rolled rice noodles, which came either with XO sauce or mushroom and egg ($14). This was the first time we had tried XO sauce, the famous Hong Kong umami bomb, tempered with hot chilies. We absolutely loved it! At the nosy behest of the waitress, we did indeed prefer a vegetable: the special Summer Squash stir fry. The squash was cut into thin ribbons and dressed with a light sauce, tianjin (pickled cabbage) and basil. It was super light and delicious, while also being complex. Finally, we tried the special entree, the whole Branzino. This was definitely the star of the night, with an inexplicable combination of flavors: Thai lime, tamarind and cilantro.

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Whole Branzino in foil

Another thing that really impressed us was the list of rare and unusual teas available, provided by the Rare Tea Cellar. We knew we had to get a pot of tea. Like wine, each of the teas had tasting notes to go along with them. We were intrigued by the “Freak of Nature Oolong” tea ($9) which boasted tasting notes of popcorn, shortbread and watermelon. The cute teapots came with unlimited refills and most cost between $5 and $10, which we felt was reasonable, because the servers do actually do come and refill the teapot.

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Pigs, figurines and rooster keeping court at Fat Rice

By the end of our meal, the communal tables had begun to fill up. The people at the end of the table did in fact order the signature item at Fat Rice and its namesake, arroz gordo. There is a charming little illustration depicting all of the myriad ingredients that make up one order of fat rice: prawns, squid, mussels, rice and more ($48). It looked like it took about 3 people to truly handle the dish. We were actually really impressed by Fat Rice, one of the recent places where we felt the hype was warranted. We are excited to try brunch, where our favorite items in the world are featured: egg tarts!

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The transnational Macanese egg tart

MacauThe egg tart may be the perfect example of a truly transnational and international food! Egg tarts are pretty simple in their perfection, baked egg custard in a flaky pastry shell. Egg tarts are a big part of Macanese cuisine, and expanded later in Hong Kong and China. Macau was a former colony of Portugal. The egg tart was supposedly invented at Lord Stow’s on the island of Coloane in Macau. The tarts are related to the Portuguese Pastel de Nata an egg tart that is something of a national institution.

The tarts were introduced to Hong Kong in the 1940s through tea houses called cha chaan teng, which are known for their extensive selections of snacks and treats. Today, in Hong Kong and Taiwan you can even get Egg Tarts from KFC.

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One major differentiation between a Macanese egg tart and a regular egg tart is that the Macanese varieties have a layer of caramelized sugar on top. You can get these little treats for a steal at many bakeries around town. We got this tart above for only $0.95 at Richwell Market in Chinatown – where you can get both plain and Macau-style tarts. For a taste of Macau via Portugal, China and Hong Kong, that’s a pretty good deal.

Richwell Market
1835 S Canal St

Chicago, IL 60616

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