It’s 8:30am and Macau’s Red Market is buzzing with locals who grocery shop as a daily ritual. Stalls are stuffed with colorful Pearl River Delta produce, fresh fish hauled in from the South China Sea and a global collection of exotic spices. Shellfish and poultry are so fresh, in fact, they’re delivered live twice a day.
Shoulder to shoulder with the regulars, we scrutinize Thai chili peppers, capsicum, ginger, king prawns and whole chickens. Our mission, however, has a distinctively different flavor. Armed with 400 patacas (roughly $50) and limited on haggling time, our two teams race against the clock to purchase provisions for prepping African chicken and Portuguese seafood rice in a competitive cooking class.
When Portuguese seafarers settled along China’s southeast coast in the 1550s where Macau is today, they infused local dishes with culinary influences from Europe and their outposts in India, Africa and South America. The multicultural milieu is Macau’s most intoxicating experience, where daily Chinese life mixes with seemingly every other country’s. But nowhere does Macau’s role as a gateway for cultural exchange play itself out more splendidly than in its cuisine.
This eclectic epicurean stew results in a distinctive Macanese fare, with our African chicken considered a signature dish.
“Incentive activity interests vary a lot,” explains the affable Bruno Simões, CEO of DOC-DMC-Macau. “But with the US market, we see a fondness for cooking and this type of cuisine in China.” Aside from these foodie classes that Simões arranges for up to 40, delicacies can be savored everywhere from cozy hideaways along narrow cobblestone lanes to swank hotels like the 791-room Grand Hyatt Macau.
That’s where we found Beijing Kitchen.
The 225-seat exhibition kitchen and restaurant serves Northern Chinese specialities in an avant-garde dining room under a ceiling of suspended Chinese birdcages. We gather in the six private nooks seating up to 10 each to watch the chefs in action while they painstakingly prepare paper-thin pancakes with traditional Peking duck inside a wood-fired oven. Other classics include assorted dim sum, braised Kao Fu beancurd, stir-fried scallops, hand-pulled noodles and pan-fried pork dumplings. “What’s so unique is how Beijing Kitchen augments the Chinese dining experience with certain Western elements, such as fine wines, gourmet coffees and European desserts,” says general manager Paul Kwok. Following our host’s lead, we reticently dip our duck skin remnants into a bowl of sugar. A Lean Cuisine meal it isn’t, but it’s literally a melt-in-your-mouth ecstasy.
DIVING + DRIVING So get this. We’re standing outside the top of Macau Tower—the 10th tallest freestanding building in the world—tricked out with shops, restaurants and 52,000 sf of ballroom space and banquet halls accommodating 1,000 for dinner and 2,000 for receptions.
The prominent skyscraper is more famous for being the highest bungee jump in the world, where adrenaline junkies purposely leap off a platform perched off the 764-ft observation deck. Thankfully, we don’t have any scheduled teambuilding events revolving around this little bit of craziness. Instead, some of our group willingly harness up for a “skywalk” circumnavigating a 6-ft ledge with no handrail. The rest of us feel perfectly content soaking in the views from the Tower’s revolving 360° café.