As a designated UNESCO City of Gastronomy, Macao has long been known for its delicious centuries-old food traditions, internationally renowned chefs and highly creative culinary culture. In recent years, the city’s dining traditions have continued to evolve as a mushrooming number of vegan and vegetarian dining options sprout up across town.
Fast becoming a hub for sustainable gastronomy, Macao is now home to many eateries that cater exclusively to those on plant-based diets while others have comprehensive vegetarian menus alongside their regular offerings.
Who better to walk us through the city’s top vegan-friendly restaurants than Mariana de Oliveira Dias? Dias is a certified wellness consultant, functional nutritionist and vegan chef who has witnessed the city’s plant-based dining scene develop over the past decade.
Born in Portugal in 1984, Dias says she was never a big fan of beef, chicken or pork: “Even when I was a kid, I would always prefer seafood rather than meat.” When she was in her late teens, she began following a mostly vegetarian diet. But the real catalyst came about 16 years ago, when her father developed a health condition, requiring him to follow a strict diet that involved reducing his sugar and salt intake. To make it easier for him, Dias decided to adopt the same changes to her diet.
Dias learned more about plant-based dining after completing a yoga training and nutrition course in 2011. After adopting a vegan diet, she found that she felt her best. By 2013 she had opened her own green juicery in Macao to share delicious recipes and all the health benefits with others. “I got to my healthiest after I completely cut animal protein from my diet,” she recalls. “It was enlightening.”
Read on for her top picks of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Macao, ranging from a humble spot in the basement of a monastery to al fresco dining in five-star luxury.
Sum Yuen Buddhist Vegetarian Restaurant
For those seeking a quiet, peaceful dining experience, Mariana recommends Sum Yuen, a serene vegetarian restaurant in the basement of Pou Tai Monastery in Taipa (behind Nova Mall and next to School of the Nations). The temple is worth a trip for its beauty alone, but the restaurant has attracted a steady stream of plant-based diners since opening in 2014.
The owner, who followed the temple’s previous Abbot (the head of a Buddhist monastery), wanted to promote Buddhist vegetarianism in Macao and open an eatery where the temple’s devotees could dine.
“The most special thing about our restaurant is our location. One of our goals is to provide a unique and comfortable place for our customers to escape from busy city life,” says the owner’s daughter, Gigi Wong who now assists in operating the restaurant.
It feels like an escape indeed. The restaurant is home to a tranquil back garden with a pond filled with koi fish, which can be seen from some tables inside the restaurant.
When it comes to the menu, Sum Yuen offers a section devoted to vegetarian takes on local favourites, like char siu, sweet and sour “fish” and Three Cup “Chicken” made with meat-alternatives like mushrooms and tofu. Gigi says the chefs strive to use mostly raw ingredients, including the likes of basil, lily bulbs and Japanese watercress grown in the restaurant’s garden.
“The whole experience at the monastery is incredible,” says Mariana. “When you are there, I think the food tastes different because you are eating with more awareness. You are being more conscious of who prepared your food, how the food should be enjoyed and celebrated.”
The menu also dedicates several pages to vegetarian sushi and dim sum, which Mariana loves. Her favourite dish is the avocado sushi. “When you deconstruct their sushi, you have fibre and carbs from the rice and healthy fats from the avocado,” she adds “You have a nutritionally complete meal there.”
Mariana’s go-to orders: Avocado sushi (without the mayonnaise), Sum Yuen steamed buns with mushrooms and pan-fried vegetarian dumplings.
Address: Pou Tai Un Monastery, Rua do Minho, Taipa (behind Nova Mall), Macao
Opening hours: Daily, 10:30 am-3 pm, 5:30-10:30 pm
Contact: (853) 2881 2698
North at The Venetian Macao
Inside the palatial halls of The Venetian Macao awaits an equally palatial restaurant: North. This celebrated Chinese eatery is the place to go if you’re looking to impress guests, thanks to its regal red decor and theatrical open kitchen. Even better, the restaurant also caters to those adhering to plant-based diets.
“Going to North is a must. I keep coming back because of the consistency. You can tell the produce they use is fresh. When the chef is there preparing the noodles, they prepare them on the spot. The staff is well-informed as well and that just makes the experience really good,” Mariana says.
True to its name, the restaurant serves northern Chinese fare, which is typically known for hearty, rich, heavily spiced carnivorous dishes – not light vegetarian. However, Mariana says to look for the “Green Cuisine” vegan page in the menu, which includes dishes like caramel-glazed, deep-fried eggplant, vegetable dumplings and Chongqing fried vegan chicken served with dried chillies and peanuts.
But Mariana says no trip to North is complete without ordering the marinated poached spinach with mustard oil. The spinach gives the dish a refreshing, vibrant green hue while the mustard oil has a wasabi-like numbing effect, she says. “It’s a great way of cooking spinach. They are really championing the spinach by serving it as a raw, cold dish,” says Mariana. “At North, the dressings are so different, tasty and nourishing – and it takes the dish to a whole different level.”
Mariana’s go-to orders: Marinated poached spinach with mustard oil, the northern Chinese mixed salad and mixed vegetable dumplings.
Address: North, Shop 1015, Level 1, The Venetian Macao, Macao
Opening hours: Daily, 11 am-3 pm, 6-11 pm
Contact: (853) 8118 8822
Ting Ting Cafe
Well-known among Macao’s vegetarians, Ting Ting Cafe has become something of an institution.
Owner Paul Lam founded the place in 2018. “There were not so many vegetarian options in Macao at the time,” he says, adding that the ones that did exist served only “traditional” Chinese vegetarian dishes. “I wanted to combine Chinese and Western dishes and transform them into vegetarian meals.”
That creative approach to vegetarian cuisine keeps loyal customers like Dias coming back time and time again. “They manage to create outstanding and flavourful dishes from really humble ingredients. The service is good too, and the owner is always smiling. It’s a very welcoming place,” she says.
Her favourite item on the menu is the mushroom burger. While many vegetarian eateries tend to use pre-made patties, which can be small and lack flavour, Ting Ting Cafe’s homemade patties stand out from the crowd.
“I don’t think you should create shortcuts for everything. If you’re going to have a vegan burger, it should be made from scratch,” she says, adding that the resulting patty tastes ultra-fresh.
Head to Ting Ting Cafe on Rua dos Cules (across Leal Senado), which has indoor seating and an array of veggie-based dishes worth savouring.
Mariana’s go-to order: Mushroom burger with beetroot and apple juice.
Address: Rua dos Cules 20B, Macao
Opening hours: Daily, 10 am-10 pm
Contact: (853) 6698 3483
Café Esplanada – Wynn Macau
When she’s seeking a chance to dine outdoors, Mariana heads to Café Esplanada. The setting is lovely, offering guests a choice of indoor or alfresco dining overlooking Wynn Macau’s lush gardens.
But the true ace up its sleeve? Delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes. Some of the vegan options include a falafel wrap served with hummus and fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, while vegetarian favourites run the gamut from pad thai to fragrant Indian vegetable curry served with poppadoms and rice.
In addition to delicious food, the staff are warm, knowledgeable about the dishes and how the ingredients are sourced, which lends a sense of quality assurance, she says.
Mariana’s favourite dish is the falafel wrap, which she says tastes freshly prepared and packed with flavour. The only downside? You have to request a plant-based menu, says Mariana: “They don’t give it to you automatically, so you have to ask for it and a lot of people don’t know this.
Mariana’s go-to order: The falafel wrap, vegetable curry and salad options.
Address: Café Esplanada, Wynn Macau, Rua Cidade de Sintra, Macao
Opening hours: Daily, 7 am – 10:30 pm
Contact: (853) 8986 3663
Tucked along the charming streets of Old Taipa Village, Goa Nights is known for its contemporary take on Indian cuisine. As this beloved bar (which was the only local watering hole selected by the 2021 Asia’s 100 Best Bars awards), the dishes feel like Indian tapas designed to complement the restaurant’s inventive cocktails.
Co-founder Gagan Sethi has an impressive track record when it comes to bringing fresh Indian flavours to town. He helped set up Indian Spice in NAPE, as well as the now-shuttered Indian Spice Express at the Venetian Food Court.
“I always had a flair for a cocktail bar. Everyone was going to places in the hotels, so I thought why not do something in the city, outside the hotels. That’s how Goa Nights came about,” Sethi shares.
When conceptualising the menu with the help of his sister, Shilpa, the Sethis set out to showcase India’s wide array of plant-based dishes with a bit of global influence. “As a [country with a] Hindu [majority], our diet is primarily vegetarian, and there was a good demand from the vegetarian scene in Macao.”
As a result, guests at Goa Nights will find fresh and playful dishes with roots in India. The dip platter, for instance, consists of hummus, babaganoush and tzatziki dips while the Goa Nights Nachos marries Mexican and Indian classics with a tikka masala atop a bed of nacho chips.
“We played around and experimented. You will not find these dishes back in India but there is something traditional about them,” adds Sethi.
Goa Nights not only satisfies vegetarian and vegan diners – it also keeps customers engaged with its vibrant setting. Housed in a multi-storey walk-up in Old Taipa, the intimate interior feels perfect for an after-work catch-up or date night.
“The dishes are mainly Indian but there’s always a twist,” says Mariana. “Going there is a whole experience because it’s very Instagrammable. I think it’s a cool place to go after a day of sightseeing.”
Her favourite dish on the menu is the kachumber, an Indian salad comprising tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and coriander. “It’s a really simple salad made with humble ingredients, but the minty lemon dressing makes it a completely different experience,” adds Mariana.
Mariana’s go-to orders: The kachumber salad, dip platter, and falafel sliders.
Address: Rua Correia da Silva 118, Taipa, Macao
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday: Noon-3 pm, 6 pm-midnight
Contact: (853) 2856 7819