Saturday, October 25, 2014

Making Shrimp & Rice Vermicelli Soup in Macau

Macao was the last of the Portuguese colonies. On December 20, 1999, after 442 years of colonial
rule, Macao was returned to the Chinese. Today it is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese government has a policy of “one country, two systems” so Macao is administered by the Macao people and retains their capitalistic system – similar to Hong Kong.  We took the one-hour ferry from Hong Kong to Macao and did not need a visa.  Many areas of Macao still retain evidence of the Portuguese heritage. 

When John and I were in Macao in January 2014 we stayed at Pousada de Mong-Ha which is part of, and operated by, the Institute of Tourism. The accommodations with breakfast were very reasonable.  Since the Middle Ages the word pousada has been used to mean a place of rest and welcome and today it identifies traditional Portuguese inns.  The hotel, located on a hilltop that was once a 19th century Portuguese fortress, has small patios with fountains and traditional Portuguese tile accents.  

I asked if the school offered cooking classes for
non-students. They don’t normally do that but the students were on break so Chef John Chan offered to show us how to make Shrimp & Vermicelli Soup. The soup, because it is meatless, was traditionally served the day before Christmas which was at one time a day of abstinence and fasting for Catholics. Typically Macanese recipes are a blend of Southern Chinese and Portuguese cuisines. 

Chef John said, “It is Asian ingredients using Portuguese cooking methods.” He also advised, “Remember to taste. The recipe may be the same but ingredients vary.  You can change a recipe to one’s personal taste. It is the variable in the art of cooking. Recipes are very flexible, I like to add crab meat to the soup but then it is not traditional.”

Shrimp & Rice Vermicelli Soup
One-half pound rice vermicelli
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs shrimp paste
1 medium onion, diced

3 cups fish stock (or chicken)
Three-fourths pound shrimp 
2 bay leaves
one small sliced chili (optional)
q.b salt, pepper, parsley, sugar 
(The term q.b. in Portuguese recipes refers to the words quanto basta. “Quanto basta “is a               Portuguese phrase that translates to "as much as you desire/want")
2 Tbs spring onion thinly sliced

Soak vermicelli in hot water until soft, about 15 minutes, then drain. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Heat oil add shrimp paste and onions simmer about 5 minutes until fragrant then it won’t taste fishy. Add fish stock, bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes. Add shrimp, bay leaves, sliced chili simmer.  If desired add a pinch of salt, black pepper, parsley and sugar to enhance the taste. Cook until shrimp is done. Before serving put vermicelli in a soup bowl and pour shrimp soup over it. Garnish with chopped onions. 

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