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Macau Ah Ma

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You could lose your shirt at one of Macau's ostensibly ostentatious casinos, or you could lose your way along Rua de Tercena, an old Macanese street where colonialism continues to crawl under cobblestones. Here, proprietors are more interested in their mahjong games than your business, and most of the wheeling and dealing is done by old-timers at food pushcarts tucked into nooks and crannies off the crooked byway. Blind alleys often lead to chancing upon gastronomical riches, leading to a case of the eyes being bigger than the belly.

This 阿妈 (Ah Ma; "granny") nimbly kneads and rolls glutinous rice flour into billowy balls of 汤圆 (tang yuan) filled with ground peanuts or red bean paste, a traditional Chinese dessert served in a sweet soup flavored by pandan. 阿妈, bent over her mobile stove at the perfect angle for ladling these chewy globules (the sticky texture symbolizes family togetherness), is as slick and non-plussed as the casino croupiers, and has everyone standing in line clutching pesetas for a chipped bowl of gooey happiness.

The only difference is, everybody wins at 阿妈's table.

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