Traveling In Timor – Part III

Eating in Timor

The general rule when looking for somewhere to eat is to watch where the locals eat. Food is limited, but as most Timorese farmers cannot afford fertilisers and such, you can be guaranteed that it is fresh.

Unless you have reasonable Indonesian speaking skills or a dictionary and are willing to learn, ordering food is best done using a lot of charades. Usually the fare of the day is on display. Rice is the staple here and will be heaped upon your plate and often wetted down with clear broth, with the merest accompaniment of meat and veg usually referred to as Nasi Campur.

(Tip: paw paw flowers contain quinine and when cooked properly are a very tasty anti-malarial.) The ever-present Asian bowl of chillies will allow you to spice up your food.

It is best to drink only boiled or bottled water. Your hotel will refill your bottle if you don’t want to keep buying it. Give your empty bottles to the kids, maybe they will drink more if they can carry it around with them.

The economy outside of the major towns is such that refrigerators and shops are a rarity. So if you are heading off the main road it is a good idea to stock up on basic supplies such as tea, coffee, sugar, noodles and biscuits before you go. Timorese people are very hospitable (if you can communicate) but an invitation into their homes may often cause embarrassment or hardship as the family does its best to cater to you.

If you are fortunate you may be invited to join in a festive occasion. These festivities bring out some of the best food I have seen and tasted in Timor.

Food is seasonal, with fresh fruit and vegetables available at all local markets. The village people tend to eat very frugally, and in the “hungry” season ­ September to November ­ while people are preparing the gardens and planting corn then waiting for the oncoming rains, there is often only UBI (cassava) and a little rice available, dry noodle packs sometimes appear to liven up the fare