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Food & Cuisine in Timor Leste

The East Timorese, like the Indonesians, have a staple diet of rice and spices. Even though there is trouble in obtaining supplies from outside due to political unrest, many restaurants in Dili serve Western cuisine. Several foreigners living and working in Timor-Leste ensure a loyal clientele for these restaurants.

The Timorese palate includes a taste for several international cuisines in addition to the traditional Timorese cuisine. Portuguese, Chinese, Italian, Western, Japanese and Thai cuisine have made their presence felt in Timor-Leste.

In this Timor-Leste restaurant guide you will find pointers that will help you when eating out in Timor-Leste’s restaurants. And to complete your travel experience, why not do a bit of local shopping in Timor-Leste?

Food & Cuisine in Timor-Leste

The staple food in Timor-Leste is rice. Commonly grown food crops include taro, cassava, sweet potatoes and maize. Beans, cabbage, cowpeas, onions and spinach are well-liked vegetables. People also rear poultry, goats and pigs. Fish forms an important part of the diet and acts as a supplement to any meal. Most traditional Timor-Leste recipes use a generous dose of spices. Mangoes, watermelons, papayas, bananas and coconuts are the most commonly cultivated fruits here. Carbohydrates like sago or other grains form the main dish for many a Timorese meal.

National specialities

Fried fish is a very popular dish, with prawns being considered a delicacy. Curries are a standard dish, with chicken curry topping the list as a favourite. Several authentic Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese dishes find favour with many Timorese.

National drinks

Coffee is grown organically in Timor-Leste and the level of caffeine in this variety is very high. Those looking for something other than coffee can have beer, which is widely available in both pubs and restaurants in Timor-Leste.


Bills presented in Timor-Leste restaurants do not have a service charge added to them. If you feel like tipping, a 10% tip is the norm.


Numerous beachfront bars and nightclubs provide the nightlife in Dili. Both food and drinks are served and the bars/nightclubs are kept open till late. The Poy Cholor serves food till 5 am and a DJ and a live band add to the ambience here. Another interesting option is the Caz bar where kayaks can be hired late in the night and a barbeque serves fried fish all the time.

Explore the flavours of East Timorese cuisine

Restaurants in East Timor and local food joints around this new nation offer the traditional Asian curries with their fragrant spice pastes and fried accompaniments. The East Timorese local restaurants specialise in fresh grilled fish and excellent curries, and also provide a chance to fully experience local cuisine and hospitality. Local food also lends itself to Papuan influences, so you will find yam and sweet potato on the menu when you stop at rural food stalls.