Splurging on good food will hardly put a dent in your budget in East Timor. Restaurant menus are most likely to offer traditional Asian curries and mouthwatering dishes made with fragrant spice pastes and crisp fried fare. Fresh grilled seafood is a staple in seaside villages, while local joints specialize in dishes with Papuan influences. Rice is an important part of the Timorese diet and is a side to most items. Local specialties like ikan sabuko, Spanish mackerel marinated in tamarind, basil and capsicum served with budu (tomato, mint, Spanish onion and lime sauce) and batar daan (a side dish made with corn, pumpkin and mung beans) are regular staples. Tapai, a fermented rice dish, is a local delicacy with a sweet, sour and faintly alcoholic taste. Coffee is the chief cash crop of East Timor, so organic blends are widely available in both restaurants and pubs.

Bars and Pubbing in East Timor

Nightlife in the capital is centered around beachfront bars that stay open late. Many local food joints and restaurants including inner-city places like Diya (Discovery Inn, Avenida Presidente Nicolau Lobato, Dili), Gion (Rua Belarmino Lobo 2-E, Ailelehun, Dili) and Nautilaus (Beach Road, Dili) serve until late, but nightlife is livelier along the coast. Caz Bar (Area Branca, Dili) is frequented by those who love late night barbeque, hamburgers and sizzling garlic prawns paired with an ice cold beer.

Castaway Bar (Avenida de Portugal/Motadel, Dili) is popular with expats in town. It specializes in a long beer and cocktail list, and is best known for its giant margarita. A shelf of books (mostly in English) is be found on site which you are encouraged to take or leave, backpacker style. Other expat bars include One More Bar (Rua Governador Filomena da Camara/Lecidere, Dili) and Roo Bar (Rua Pres. Nicolau Lobato, Dili). while the Meti Aut area is home to the famous Atlantic Bar and Grill, one of the newest establishments in the city.

Dining and Cuisine in East Timor

There is more than a handful of great restaurants to visit in Dili, many of which are found near the coast that offer not only exquisite food, but stunning views of the vast blue waters. Terrace Cafe (Rua Formosa, Central Dili) is a popular stopover for workers and students, where you can enjoy Padang-style meals on a breezy, ambient terrace. Also in the heart of Dili is Rock Garden (Central Dili), known for its mixture of Japanese, Filipino and Asian cuisine. Gion (Rua Belarmino Lobo 2-E, Ailelehun, Dili) is the place to go to for authentic Japanese dishes, while Denpasar Moon lets you indulge in a variety of Indonesian dishes.

Seaside restaurants like Atasquinha are popular for grilled fish dishes, along with Seahorse Restaurant, which is known for Balinese style cooking. Kebab Club (Rua Belarmino Lobo/Lecidere, Dili) is the place to go to for Turkish cravings in East Timor. There are many other notable restaurants in town, such as Golden Star (Avenida Liberdade de Imprensa, Dili), Restaurante Sagres, Vasco da Gama, and Bagan Beach Cafe Restaurant (Avenida de Portugal/Kampung Alor, Beach Road, Dili).