Walk down Rua do Cunha, Macau, where the cookies are made of meat
There's a street in Macau that everyone goes to for a kick in the snackpants: Rua do Cunha.
This sliver of a pedestrian street, just five meters wide and stretching for about 115 meters, packs in a dozen snack shops and eateries each famed far beyond the former Portuguese colony.
Located in Taipa Island's old town, Rua do Cunha is quintessentially Macau. It is physically small, unashamedly commercial and appealing to tourists, yet has an overwhelming Macanese charm achieved through colorful colonial architecture and the folksy hospitality of locals.
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It can be hard to find Rua do Cunha in Macau's jungle of new casinos and construction sites, so look out for two markers.
First, at the Rua do Regedor end of the street, there is a massive billboard advertising Koi Kei pastry shop, which has two branches on Rua do Cunha. The near-permanent advertisement features an enlarged head of food-critic-posterboy Chua Lam, beaming down at visitors like a jolly mascot of cookies.
The second unmistakable sign that you are near Rua do Cunha is the heavenly smell of pastries, candies and beef jerky -- maybe with an undertone of durian too.
Sniff, feel your knees go weak. You know you're near.
Here are our favorite stops on Macau's food street.
46-50 Rua do Cunha: Koi Kei
Entering Rua do Cunha from Rua do Regedor, the first store we encounter is a massive branch of Koi Kei.
This purveyor of cookies, candies, preserved fruits and jerky is probably one of the few things Macau is famed for apart from gambling.
Koi Kei's street-side bakers make traditional Chinese almond cookies by compressing the dry "batter" in a special mold. Visitors snap up these still-hot cookies by the dozen.
A few steps away, another Koi Kei stand displays a selection of pork and beef jerky.
The large sheets of cured meat in all their glistening glory lure in the shoppers. You can almost hear saliva glands collectively kicking into overdrive.
The variety includes black pepper pork, chili sauce on beef, honey premium pork and more. Our favorite is premium pork fillet in original flavor.
Koi Kei, 46-50 Rua do Cunha, +853 2882 7458, www.koikei.com
20 Rua do Cunha: "O Santos" Comida Portuguesa
A few steps away sits cozy Portuguese restaurant "O Santos" Comida Portuguesa.
Portuguese residents in Macau recommend the little restaurant as one of the most authentic Portuguese eateries.
The whole place is rife with nostalgia for Portugal. The menu is a compilation of hearty home-cooking, like Portuguese-style roast meats and grilled seafood.
The owner is nearly always there speaking in Portuguese with some friend or other.
Portuguese football souvenirs line the walls along with a portrait of the owner when he was a young sailor.
Expect crowds and arrive earlier than your reservation.
"O Santos" Comida Portuguesa, 20 Rua da Cunha, +853 2882 5594 www.osantoscomidaportuguesa.com
17 Rua do Cunha: Ginger candy
The smell of sweet ginger gets to us before we even see the ginger candy store opposite "O Santos."
This mom-and-pop store is so down-to-earth, it doesn't have a brandname. They are simply called "Ginger Candy."
Honest-to-goodness handmade candy from fresh ginger is the draw here. The candy is potent and spicy. The taste must be adjusted to suit the season -- in the summer the candy is made sweeter, and in the winter it is spicier, to help warm up the body.
Ginger Candy, 17 Rua do Cunha
14 Rua do Cunha: Pastelaria Fong Kei
Century-old pastry shop Fong Kei is the next big draw on Rua do Cunha.
This place is for people who want their cake and their steak and to eat it too. What we mean is: Fong Kei makes cookies with pork and lard fillings.
Sounds like doggy biscuits, but tastes like human culinary genius, as evidenced by the perennially long queue outside Fong Kei.
Almond cookies with pork filling are their signature.
A reminder that we're not at Koi Kei, so there's no tastings. And do try to be a good shopper and give your order quickly and succinctly. Dillydallying will get you the evil eye.
Pastelaria Fong Kei, 14 Rua do Cunha, +853 2882 7142
9A Rua do Cunha: Mok Yee Kei
From Fong Kei, we march on and enter the stinky zone.
Durian is the headliner at Mok Yee Kei. That love-it-or-hate-it golden fruit, aka The King of Fruits, flavors Mok Yee Kei's ice cream and agar agar puddings.
For more than eight decades, this shop has perfected its durian desserts recipes. And they are excellent.
The agar agar is smooth with a muted durian flavor. The ice cream has an intense durian flavor with bits of durian flesh.
Non-durian lovers better just run past.
Mok Yee Kei, 9A Rua do Cunha, +853 6669 5194