Recipes from travels in Timor Leste

Ikan Sabroko – Baked Fish

by Ana Guterres

Ingrts.; 1 whole Snapper or Salmon optional, 1/2 of ginger, 1 Garlic clove, 1 whole Onion, 1/2 stick of Lemon grass, 2 bunch of Basil leaves, 1 whole lime, 2 tbsp of Soy souce, 3 or 4 lime or Lemon leaves, 1 teaspoon Salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder or 1/2 cubed fresh turmeric, 1 bunch challot choped, fresh sliced chilli optional, 2 tbsp olive oil and banana leaves or ALFOIL

Recepie: Crushed ginger, garlic,fresh turmuric/powder no need to crushed, maranited the fish with salt paper, squeeze lemon or lime rub all the other ingeridients over the fish wrapedthe fish with banana leaves or ALFOIL. Cook in the Oven for 45 minute in 180 heat!

Enjoy and good luck..! Bon appetite!!

Turmeric: Used in Thai and Indonesia cuisine, turmeric and reflects Indian influences. Use it in curries and to colour rice. Turmeric can be bought fresh in most Asian supermarkets but is sometimes hard to find fresh elsewhere. Turmeric is a relative of ginger and arroroot families and is a bright yellowish orange. traditionally it was used to colour the robes of Thai monks!


How 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


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.

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!


Budu Tasi – Seaweed Salad

 To get straight to the point – yes, seaweed is underrated. I loved this dish! The seaweed was carted back from Atauro Island where it was sold at the Saturday market for $1. The bag, bigger than the backpack I’d brought for 3 weeks in Timor Leste, weighed enough to topple me when I first picked it up. Nonetheless, I carried it home, just, as I thought about Berta and other friends telling me that seaweed from the Atauro market was a must.

The seaweed is washed to remove some of the salt, given a quick dunk in boiling water, and dressed with chilli, vinegar, onions and tomatoes. Sour, but like the simple Portugese Pasta, a perfect match for the other platters of flavours spread across the table for a festive night.

Prep time: 10 mins (if you’d like to include from pick up to cooking time, make that 4.5 hours and a tight shoulder)

Cooking time: less than 5 mins

Serves: 6-10

You’ll need

5 kgs edible seaweed

3 brown onions

4 large tomatoes

4 cloves garlic

2 chillis

1 tablespoon vinegar


1. Rinse the seaweed

2. Drop the seaweed into boiling water for a few minutes, then remove. Cool.

3. Add sliced onions and tomatoes, and chopped garlic. Add vinegar.

4. Serve chilled

Portugese Pasta

This oh-so-simple pasta dish is a favourite for festivities in   Timor Leste.  It’s subtle flavours are a perfect accompaniment to foods with stronger flavours such as Tukkir and Seaweed Salad. Berta and Casamata prepared this wholesome dish as part of my farewell party.

Preparation time 5 mins

Cooking time 10 mins

Serves 4 

You will need

1kg of pasta

1 brown onion

2 tomatoes

1 green capsicum

3 cloves of garlic

1 handful of fresh small fish such as sardines, or chopped tuna

1 egg

2 teaspoons of fish sauce

2 teaspoons tofu sauce

1 teaspoon chill sauce


1. Dice the capsicum, 1 tomato, onion and garlic. Add the garlic and onion to a pot with some oil and saute over medium to high heat, then remove from heat and cover.

2. Boil the pasta in water with a little salt

3. When cooked, remove the water and return the pot of pasta to the heat. Add the fish and stir through until heated.

4. Add the sauteed garlic and onion and sauces, and stir through. Add the capsicum and 1 tomato and stir for a few minutes.

5. Remove from pot, add to a serving dish. Slice the remaining tomato into a star (like photo above) and top the pasta with it.

Bamboo to be used for Tukkir
Rice is cleaned and coconut flesh grated
Coconuts are opened with a machete by the oldest nephew
Chatting with Maun Casamata in the family’s backyard while the Tukkir cooks on the fire.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *