What do the Timorese eat?

The cuisine in East Timor consists or rice, vegetables and occasionally meat.rice-timorRice, rice, rice- the carb of choice in East Timor


East Timorese love their rice. Makes sense, it’s cheap and it’s filling. They eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A meal is not complete without rice. A friend from work was telling me about a trip she did to Australia for a conference:“At lunchtime, I had to search the streets of Melbourne looking for rice because they only gave me a sandwich for lunch. Just a sandwich, no rice! I was starving. So I looked and looked and finally I found a Chinese restaurant. I just ordered rice.”After about twelve months of living in East Timor and eating my fair share of white rice, I felt the exact opposite:

Enough with this rice! Someone please give me a sandwich.
But good sandwiches are hard to come by in East Timor, especially if you want to make one yourself. Cheese and deli meats are expensive items and don’t even think about using the supermarket bread because it’s sickly sweet!And if you’re body, like mine, is not used to eating that much rice, you’ll also notice the pounds piling up. It took me twelve months and 7 kilos before I decided it was time to reduce my rice intake. But I wasn’t the only one to notice by body swelling from too much rice, my East Timorese friends were happy to point out how much weight I’d gained:“Oh Sister, you’re so fat now!”Yep, East Timorese politeness goes out the window when it comes to talking about someone’s ‘changing’ appearance.

Rice with …… what?


Meals with the lot, except notice that mine (on the right) has NO rice


East Timorese usually eat their rice with vegetables (leafy greens, potatoes, beans, carrots etc…). They simply boil or slather them with oil and  serve them. You can buy all sorts of fruit and vegetables that are grown locally and are mostly organic from the street markets and at some supermarkets. The local produce tastes pretty good but don’t expect to see the perfectly shaped bananas and avocados you are used to seeing at home. Because of this, some supermarkets import their veggies from Singapore and Australia.
Fish East Timor

Fish caught in Timor and then cooked on a stick


Meat is a luxury. The cheaper the meat, the more it is eaten. Frozen chickens aren’t too expensive and are sold in all the supermarkets. Fish is also popular. Local fisherman stand along the man roads swatting flies and trying to offload their latest catches everyday. Red meat like buffalo, pig and goat are mostly eaten at big events like weddings and funerals.To supplement their diet, they get a lot of their protein from tofu and eggs. You’ll often see young boys walking around the streets selling trays of boiled eggs with chilli sauce for 25c.


  • Oil (they deep fried anything and everything including two minute noodles)
  • Chilli- just like rice, East Timorese add chilli to everything, they like their food H-O-T!


Sweets and Snacks

Timorese aren’t massive buyers of sweets which is probably why their bread is so sweet. But there are Indonesian style cake shops which is where you’ll be able to buy some incredible looking birthday cakes. You can even have the cakes decorated with messages while you wait.Kids are satisfied with plenty of cheap and interesting lollies and chocolates, which you should definitely try too. You can find them at any small kiosk located along the roads.For snacks they like two minute noodles, nuts, fried banana strips, rice and supermarket bread with butter. They do make their own bread- yummy non-sweet small rolls called ‘paun’- but you have to get up really early to buy it from a kiosk before it sells out. I’m such a BIG fan of Timorese paun that I’m not going to mention anything else about it now, I reckon I’ll dedicate a whole post to in the next few months!


Coffee is the drink of choice in Timor-Leste. Even though they grow their own AMAZING coffee in East Timor, a lot of Timorese drink Nescafe especially the 3 in 1 packet, which is a coffee, milk and sugar instant mix. It’s not as bad as it sounds.And for you? You can buy lots of different drinks. At the Western bars they have everything, including cider!  But when it comes down to it, sometimes all you want, is to brush your teeth in good old tap water.
Timor Coffee

Cheap Nescafe 3 in 1 coffee

Have we left any foods popular with the East Timorese out? You can let us know down below. And if you’re dying to know what foods expats can eat in East Timor, well you’ll have to keep an eye out for our post on that, which will be up on this blog in a few weeks.