A few thousand miles away, tucked into southern coast of China just a few hours from Hong Kong, Macau gleams as the “Vegas of the East.” But long before it became a gambling mecca, Macau had spent 300 years as a Portuguese colony, melding the cultures and cuisines of China and the tip of the Iberian Peninsula. Chefs and co-owners of Chicago’s Fat Rice, Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo, brought the flavors of this port city to the Midwest with their acclaimed restaurant, and with their cookbook, The Adventures of Fat Rice, they’ll help you bring those flavors home. Here the show how to make a Capela, which is the Macanese version of meatloaf.

The word capela has a couple of interpretations, both referring to its circular shape. One is the literal translation of “chapel” from Portuguese. Going further back, though, the root of the word can mean “crown,” referring to the round shape of the loaf. Either way, this is the meatloaf to end all meat loaves, loaded with the usual suspects of pork, beef, bread, and bacon, joined by fragrant olives, almonds or pili nuts, and cheese on top. Come on now, you need this in your life.

We used to make it with briny green olives, but after experiencing it in the home of our friend Marina Senna Fernandes in Macau, we realized that the ripe black olives in her version add a lovely sweet fragrance that permeates the whole meat loaf. As for the cheese, in Macau the grassy Azorean cheese São Jorge would be used, but don’t sweat it too much: just find a semi-firm cheese that can be grated easily, such as Edam, young Gouda, or mozzarella. We tweak tradition by adding wood ear mushrooms for their snappy texture; the move was inspired by our chef de cuisine at Fat Rice, Eric Sjaaheim, who after an extended trip to Vietnam made us a Vietnamese pork pâté that included wood ears.

When folks talk about Capela in Macau, it always comes back to “Was it dry?” (in the same way we talk about the Thanksgiving turkey here in the States). A moist end product is key, but don’t get lured into using super-fatty ground meat to achieve this; leaner meat will result in a more consistent texture. The moisture is provided by the milk-soaked bread, so don’t skip that.

At the end of the day, Capela is that classic dish that works all the scenes—great as a party dish, as a home-style family meal dish, or leftovers as a sandwich, pan-fried and topped with an egg.


Serves 12 in a multi-dish meal

• 8 oz. good day-old bread, sliced and crust removed
• 1½ c. milk
• 1c. olive oil
• 1 lb. yellow onions (about 2), finely diced
• 2 lbs. ground pork (the leaner the better)
• 2 lbs. ground beef (the leaner the better)
• 6 oz. chouriço or linguiça, minced
• ½ c. pitted and chopped black olives
• 1 ½ c. grated semi-firm cheese
• Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
• 4 eggs, beaten (beat 3 in one bowl and 1 in a separate bowl)
• ½ oz. wood ear mushrooms, soaked and julienned
• 2 tsp. salt
• 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
• ¼ c. pine nuts, toasted
• ¼ c. almonds or pili nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
• 6 slices bacon, halved crosswise


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the bread and milk in a bowl and soak for 20 minutes. Remove the bread from the bowl and squeeze to remove excess milk. (Discard the milk.) Tear the bread into rough 1-inch pieces and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until they just start to caramelize, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

Combine the pork, beef, and chouriço in a large bowl and mix together well with your hands. Add the olives, 1 cup of the cheese, lemon zest and juice, 3 of the eggs, the mushrooms, salt, pepper, nuts, reserved bread pieces, and cooked onions. Mix well with your hands until thoroughly incorporated. Form the meat into a ball and place in the center of a 10-inch cast-iron pan. Use your hands to push the meat into a ring shape, making sure the top of the meat is even with the rim of the pan and leaving about a 4-inch hole in the center.

Brush the top of the Capela with half of the remaining egg, sprinkle with the remaining 1⁄2 cup cheese, and brush again with the last bit of egg. Place the bacon slices center to edge like the hands of a clock evenly around the Capela, then place an oven- safe 4-inch bowl in the hole in the center of the loaf, making sure it’s under the peak of the meat so that it catches excess fat that runs off. Put on a parchment paper–lined sheet pan, place in the oven, and bake until an internal temperature of 150°F is reached, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Let cool for about 20 minutes, then carefully remove the bowl and discard the collected fat. Slice the Capela into 12 pieces and serve. Wrap any leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Reprinted with permission from The Adventures of Fat Rice, by Abraham Conlon, Adrienne Lo and Hugh Amano, 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.