There are five main supermarkets in town: Lita Store, Kmanek Supermarket, Leader Supermarket, Cash n’ Carry and Landmark Supermarket. Which supermarket you go to will probably depend on what you’re planning on buying (some supermarkets have different things) and where you live (these five supermarkets are spread all over Dili). Also, we must give a special mention to the petrol station, Tiger Fuel, which is open 24 hours. They stock western food and alcohol and I guarantee that’s where you’ll find yourself when you need a 11pm chocolate or whisky hit.
You’ll be surprised by how many food items you can buy in East Timor. Just remember that stock isn’t instantly replenished so you often can’t make the meals that you feel like because key ingredients will be missing. There were too many times where I found my shopping basket full of mince, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, salsa and sour cream to discover that the final ingredient for my Mexican banquet, taco shells, wasn’t in-stock. Never underestimate how devastating not being able to make tacos, or whatever meal you’re planning on cooking, can be. It sucks, especially if you’ve had a challenging day and need the comfort of your favourite food to make you feel better.
- Carbs: pasta, rice, bread, couscous, cereal (corn flakes, Weet-Bix, etc)
- Jars: spreads (vegemite, jam, peanut butter, nutella), pasta sauce, tomato paste, chicken tonight
- Packets: spices, parmesan cheese, recipe bases, two minute noodles
- Cans: baked beans, spaghetti, lentils, chickpeas, peas, corn, carrots, soup, tuna
- Frozen: vegetables, fish, Sara Lee carrot cake (mmm), ice cream
- Fresh: fruit and vegetables, mince, beef, chicken
Top shelf- items that are expensive to buy in East Timor
- Yoghurt- yep you’re going to get gastro in East Timor and you’ll want the pro biotic cultures in yoghurt to help you with your recovery, but you probably wont be able to afford to buy it. Knowing this, a lot of people beat the system by bringing with them their own yoghurt making kit from home
- Cheese- if you’re moving to East Timor soon, it would be wise to eat your fill of cheese NOW before you leave. Like yoghurt, cheese is expensive in East Timor. One thing you will master though, like all other expats in East Timor, is ‘cheese expiry date checking’. Yep, you’ll know exactly what cheese is available in each supermarket and when it is due to expire so that when that cheeses time is up, you’ll be the first in line to buy it at a discounted special rate. I’ve even had smses from friends just about cheese: “Cheese is only $2 in Landmark”. You beauty!
- Muesli- if you are gourmet muesli lover then bring some with you because there isn’t much to choose from in East Timor and the supermarkets charge a lot for it.
- Family size chocolate blocks, best to stick to the single bars which are prices between $1-$3.
Otherwise most items are reasonably well priced especially considering you’re in East Timor and the fact that you can even buy imported blue cheese here is pretty incredible.
What about sweet treats?
If you are like me and need something sweet to get you through the day, never fear, there are plenty of sugary delights to buy in East Timor including:
- Cadbury chocolate bars and blocks (chocolate is usually kept in the fridges)
- Caramello Koalas (this deserves a dot point of its own)
- Biscuits: Oreos, Mint Slice, Scotch Fingers
- Lollies: Natural Confectionery Company, Allens
- Ice creams: Magnums, Golden Gaytimes, Splice, Calypso
- I’ve mentioned it a few times, but you’ve got to try some of the Asian imported chocolates and biscuits. You can buy these from the major supermarkets and also at the small street kiosks. My favourites include Chocolatos and Tango’s.
You’ll need to keep your fluids up to survive in East Timor’s hot climate. Water can be bought in small, large and gallon drum bottles. Other drinks you can buy include:
- Sports drinks (e.g. Powerade) from western supermarkets
- Fizzy drinks: coke, sprite, fanta, soda water, tonic water
- Some special drinks you should try: MyZone (fake Powerade), Sagiko (fruit drink in a can with real chunks of fruit), Pulpy Orange (cheap orange juice)
- Coffee-local and imported
- Tea (all types)
Cooking food at home in East Timor
You can buy most appliances in East Timor. The more fancy e.g. blenders and juicers, the more expensive. Toasters, jugs, gas burners, and fridges are reasonably priced and if you are moving into a furnished house, they should already have these items. I’m not one to travel with a lot of things (as you’d know from the amount of shoes I took with me when I moved to East Timor) but I definitely recommend you take a sandwich press with you. Yes, they are bulky, but our sandwich press turned otherwise unexciting meals into delightful creations. Again, remember sometimes you have to be creative with your food in East Timor. And if you’re in need of some toastie inspiration, look no further than this wonderful site, The Toastie Project. This is their Cornetto Toastie:
Must houses don’t come with ovens and ovens are big ticket items that you probably can’t afford to buy in East Timor (unless of course you can, then you should consider buying an oven). There are smaller oxen boxes that look like little grills which are a good alternative. And if you can find one of the metal ovens you place on top of a gas burners PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHERE YOU BOUGHT IT FROM! Your best bet for baking is again to be creative with what you’ve got e.g. download a few cake and slice fridge setting recipes. Otherwise, you can always bake scones and roast meat over an open fire.
Yep you can buy all utensils in Timor too, but boy do they jack the prices up on some items- $20 for a can opener anyone?! But remember the earlier you splurge on these items, the longer you can enjoy using them.
Alcohol can be bought from all the supermarkets and there are even specialty wine shops like Cellar Door, Cheers Bottle and Smoke Shop, and Pateo. You can get Portuguese, Australian, New Zealand white and red wine. There are lots of different beers and spirits that aren’t that much more expensive than they are at home. Also you can get your fill from the local bars and clubs around town which stock everything.