Recipe: Tukkir

IMG_2977How I love this dish. I’ve blogged about it during my trip. I wrote about it countless times over Facebook to Berta in between visits. I ached for the dish every day in Timor Leste, hoping one day, soon, there would be the kind of celebration that called for Tukkir to be prepared.

I’ve said before that making Tukkir is about as wonderful as eating it. For me that’s because the entire family gathers to prepare the dish, kicking back while they work methodically and slowly, telling tales and joking throughout. People appear relaxed. At their finest. Day turns into night, and the fire is lit as the sun drops out of sight. After 2 hours on the fire, the edible part of Tukkir is removed carefully from bamboo. There’s anxious silence as the Tukkir is revealed. Sudden laughter cracks in the air and seats are taken anywhere they can be to tuck into the wonderful, the very special, Tukkir.

Preparation time: 45 minutes hours, depending on the kind of meat you use. (And the number of people assisting – I’d suggest at least 5 people are doing this together!)

Cooking time: 2-3 hours

Serves: 4-6

You’ll need

6-8 cloves garlic

Nutmeg, salt and pepper to season

Juice from 3 coconuts

2 kg rice

Buffalo meat diced into 1cm chunks (or, use chicken or goat)

Banana leaves

3L water

6 pieces of bamboo sliced into pieces about 30cm in length, so there is a bottom in each piece (i.e. cut the top of one just below the wall to the next)




1. Split the coconut and grate the white part into a bowl. Add water to the mix as you go, squeeze the water that comes from the coconut and place in a separate bowl, and then return the grated coconut to the original bowl. Grate more coconut and repeat. Continue until you’ve used most of your coconut and there’s enough coconut juice to pour into 3 pieces of bamboo covering the rice.IMG_2976

2. Fill 3 with rice, seasoned with salt and pepper and nutmeg, and coconut juice so they are 3/4 full and then stuff with each one with a banana leaf. Put aside.


3. Fill the remaining 3 bamboo pieces with meat, season, and add water. Stuff each with a banana leaf.

4. Start a fire. Next, add bamboo with meat pieces closest to the centre of the fire. Stack the bamboo on so it forms a tee-pee like shape.

5. Let the fire roast the Tukkirr, and check occassionally. If your rice or meat is uncooked and water has evaporated, you will need to add a little more water. Leave on for about an hour until cooked through. The bamboo will blacken over the hour. Use each check to rotate each piece of bamboo slightly ensuring an even cook.

6. Remove from the fire, and put the fire out. Take a large knife and on a chopping board cut one of the rice pieces in half lengthways. Rice should have a crisp outer where those grains have been against the bamboo, and have soft, white grains on the inner part of the bamboo. Admire the food and the scent…and let the rice fall out into a bowl. Do the same with the other rice ones, and likewise with the meat pieces. Place the meat ontop of the bowl of rice. Serve. This dish should only ever be shared!


~ Heidi x

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