Caril is a mild chicken curry, made with coconut milk and roasted capsicum. It is one of East Timor’s favorite dishes.
Unlike many curries from other Asian countries, East Timor’s caril is only mildly spicy. Although it goes best with rice, it is often served with corn, East Timor’s primary staple.
Pastel de nata
Pastel de nata, or Portuguese egg tart, is a favorite East Timor snack. It is a standard dessert found in the fanciest East Timor hotels and goes well with the flavorful, aromatic, and organically grown East Timor coffee.
Bibinka is a grilled layered coconut cake. For added flavor and aroma, it can be cooked in banana leaves.
Like pastel de nata, bibinka is often served as a dessert in restaurants. When taken as a snack, it goes very well with a cup of East Timor coffee.
Akar is sort of pancake made from palm bark.
Sounds unappetizing? You’re right. In fact, the East Timorese are not too fond of it either. Akar is dry, tasteless, and hard to make.
And it’s not even nutritious. The nutritional content of akar is mostly carbohydrates; it has very little vitamins, minerals, and protein. Ideally, it should be eaten with meats and vegetables – but often, that is not the case.
So why do the East Timorese eat it? During the “hungry season” of November to February, it is often the only thing that keeps the people from starving.
To make akar, you need to strip the bark from the tree, dry it, and then pound it into powder. You soak the powder in water until it turns translucent and jellylike. This mass of “jelly” is then cooked over fire and eaten as a staple food.
Tapai is steamed rice with a twist: it is sticky, fermented, slightly sweet, and slightly alcoholic.
It is considered a delicacy in East Timor. (Variations of it are found all over Southeast Asia.)
To make tapai, all you need are some rice, water, and yeast. Steam the rice in water, let it cool, then add the yeast.
Put the mixture in a clay jar, cover the mouth of the jar with cloth, and leave the whole thing for 2 to 4 days. When the mixture turns watery and begins to emit its characteristic smell, the tapai is ready to eat.