Root Crops: numerous root crops, including potatoes, taro, sago,
and cassava, are popular and found in many dishes
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Batar Daan: a dish consisting of corn, beans, and pumpkin
Budu: a popular tomato-based sauce made with mint, lime,
Caril: coconut curry with chicken
Feijoada: pork, beans, and chorizo sausage
Mee Goreng/Nasi Goreng: fried noodles and fried
rice respectively, these dishes served with vegetables are regular items on most
Eating in Timor-Leste is quite different from eating
in nearby Indonesia as Timor-Leste is primarily Catholic
so dining rules are very different. If you are in the company of Muslims though
be sure to follow the Indonesian Dining Rules.
Before entering a house or restaurant check to see if others have left their shoes
at the door; if so you should do the same then greet everyone personally, elders
first. Let your local counterpart arrange the seating and many cases your local
host will order food for the entire table so you have multiple dishes to try.
Prior to eating you may notice a small bowl of water on your table; this is for
cleaning your fingers so follow the lead of others as you may be asked to wash your
hands before you begin eating. Food is often served family style and accepting all
food that is offered to you is a must. Once the host invites you to begin eating
you may notice the lack of a knife on most occasions. The Timorese
tend to eat with both a fork and spoon; the spoon is held in the right hand and
the fork is used to push food onto the spoon. Other times the Timorese will eat
with only their right hand and you should do the same. No matter what is present,
only use your right hand to eat and only bring food to your mouth with your right
When you finish eating, leave a little food on your plate (but finish all of your
rice) then place your fork and spoon face down on the plate, with the spoon crossed
over top of the fork. After the meal you may be offered a beverage (drinks are usually
not served before or with meals); if so you again must accept the drink, but receive
it with both hands. As you get your bill you will notice that a service charge is
rarely added. Tips are not expected in most restaurants in Timor-Leste,
but high end hotel restaurant servers generally expect a tip of about 10%.
Celebrations & Events
Although there are few celebrations tied to particular foods in
Timor-Leste, there are numerous holidays that celebrate with family and
hence the center of these events is often around a dining table. Most of these celebrations
are religious in origin, including Christmas and Easter. As a primarily Catholic
country, Timor-Leste brings in these events with family gathers and vast amounts
When it comes to Timor-Leste coffee and fruit juices
are the best options available. The coffee tends to be on the strong side and has
a distinct flavor, while the juice selection is varied and coconut milk is also
available. Soft drinks, tea, and milk are all easily accessible as well.
Unlike much surrounding Indonesia,
Timor-Leste is primarily Catholic so does allow the consumption of alcohol.
Due to the Portuguese influence there are some ports and
wines available, however these are imports and generally only found at nice restaurants
and hotels. The locals tend to prefer beer, which includes regional beers like "Tiger"
as well as European favorites. Hard liquors are also available
in hotels and some restaurants, but rarely elsewhere.
The tap water in Timor-Leste should not be consumed.
Be sure to also avoid anything with ice as it may have been made from the tap water.
Salads and fruits could have also been washed in the tap water so be careful with
those foods as well.