Friday, September 14, 2012

East Timor (Timor-Leste)

Fishing off Atauro Island, Timor-Leste
Fishing in Timor-Leste.  Picture courtesy of United Nations Photo on Flickr.
Conventional Name: Timor-Leste
Location: Southeastern Asia; eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago
History: The Island of Timor was colonized by the Portuguese in the 16th century.  After being occupied by Japan for a while, they declared independence from Portugal in 1975.  Nine days later, they were invaded and occupied by Indonesia.  After various bouts of pacification attempts and violence, Timor-Leste was internationally recognized as an independent state in 2002.
Area: Almost 15000 sq km; 160th largest in the world
         Slightly smaller than Connecticut
Adjective: Timorese
Official Languages: Tetum and Portuguese
Religion: 98% Roman Catholic
Population: About 1.2 million; 159th largest in the world
Capital: Dili
Children Under the Age of 5 Underweight: 40.6%; 4th highest in the world
GDP Spent on Education: 16.8%; Highest in the world

Source: CIA World Factbook

Timor-Leste (more common and accurate name for East Timor) is currently enjoying "one of its longest periods of post-independence stability" according to the Factbook.  Unfortunately, this period just started in 2008.  It does sound like things are looking up, though.

Let's see...last time we talked I was waiting "patiently" for this pregnancy thing to be over.  Since I didn't know when the baby would come, I stopped buying food to make international recipes because I didn't want it to spoil while we were busy keeping another human being alive.  This time, I have a baby to present to you:
Brendan Thomas!
This was over two months ago.  He's much bigger now and I'm actually able to steal some time away to cook and write blog entries.  Good progress...

When he was about 2.5 weeks old, Kevin's mom came out to help us take care of our place and Brendan while Kevin went back to work.  This also gave me a brief respite to cook some food from Timor-Leste, so let's get started!

Finding a recipe was not easy at all.  They are such a small and new country.  Plus, it doesn't seem like there is much in terms of cuisine to separate them from the surrounding Indonesia.  Therefore, I ended up finding a recipe from someone who is making a similar journey to the one I am.  She made Chicken Basko Meatballs.  These are meatballs with a few unusual (for me) ingredients served over ramen noodles.  Plus, it gave me another stab at getting meatballs right.

First, I am supposed to gather and caramelize the shallot and onion.  So far so good.
Next, I had to blend some ice and the ground chicken.  I didn't have pre-crushed ice, so I just did that in this process with the food processor.  It truly was quite loud.  I had Kevin bring Brendan in the other room.
Tapioca flour was one of the ingredients that was new to me.  It can be used as a thickener similar to corn starch, apparently.  I hear that I should use it to make pie crusts.
All of the ingredients were put in the processor to make one uniform mixture.  I have to say, I really like mixing things this way.  It really saves a lot of time.

While I did this, Kevin's mom made the ramen noodles.  This was something else new for me.  Yes, I had the Maruchan version that keeps college students alive.  I had never bought them separately though.  It took some searching in the store and I'm still not entirely sure I got the right thing.  The packaging was certainly amusing, though.

We just cooked the noodles in chicken broth, since this says you're supposed to cook it in soup.  I figured it couldn't hurt, right?

These meatballs are supposed to be boiled, which helps them keep their shape WAY more than frying them does.  I definitely thought that that was a positive.  It was also very different than what I am used to.
Dad and Brendan, hanging out while food is finished.
That's really about it.  Not much to this recipe, when the food processor does most of the work!

I did not like this food.  I don't know why.  It wasn't really a particular taste or smell.  I think it had something to do with the texture.  It all just caught in my throat.  Maybe boiled ground chicken just become rubbery?  I don't know.  I couldn't explain it.  Having some of the noodles actually helped a little, which I also can't explain.  The noodles were okay, but very salty.

The others didn't seem to mind the food nearly as much as I did.  It must just be a personal problem that I had with this combination of things.  Perhaps I would actually like them better fried.  It is also possible that I would like them better while not sleep deprived.  We will probably never know.

Fear not!  We have now gotten to the point where I can cook international food without an extra set of hands in the house.  I've already got the next country done and another in the works.  The countries will just keep on coming.

Next time: Ecuador