Pigs on the Beach

How did I end up here?

I ask myself as I crouch next to a tree, beside the sea, at 3 am, vomiting up my dinner. A small group of pigs is snuffling nearby, ready to clean up after me.

Please note the pig in this photo is eating our left over dinner scraps, not my vomit. And also, that rubbish on the beach is not ours, there is litter everywhere, we always take our rubbish with us

About three weeks earlier we arrived in Dili, Timor-Leste. We had spotted a little food market on the waterfront on our way in and thought it would be perfect for our first dinner here. Eat like the locals, street food! We wandered down to where ladies sat, dusting flies off skewers of meat with plastic bags tied to sticks. It was most likely the same meat we saw on our drive past at lunchtime, and quite possibly the same meat that was out yesterday. We chose one at random and were given a plate to select our meat sticks. We chose a few different types, which she then doused in sauce and reheated over an open fire. She added a couple of small parcels of rice, wrapped in woven palm leaves, and a cob of grilled corn. We sat at our dining table and picked a stick at random. We were optimistic that it was beef and it tasted passable, but after a good 5 minutes chewing the tough flesh we had to give up, we just couldn’t get through it. I picked another, making the foolish assumption that is would be the same I bit down, hard. Now, I do try but I am not the best at jiggly meats, and what had I bitten, probably liver…so soft…so textural.

And so we ate rice, and tried not to expire under the heat of the little package of spicy sauce she had also included. ‘I’ll fight you for the corn’ I said. Oh dear; we couldn’t even chew that, it was like eating un-popped popcorn kernels. Our soft western teeth and gums just cant handle it. But proudly, we didn’t get sick. We hadn’t eaten much but we didn’t get sick!

And so, how did I end up, a few days later, vomiting under a tree? We had driven three hours out of Dili, it was well past lunch and we had not seen any options for food for hours, when suddenly we rounded a bend and there was hut after hut set up as food stalls . We stopped. Enthusiastically thinking about what we might have to eat. We picked one, sat down, and the lady lifted the lid on the plastic container sitting on the table. Chicken skewers and rice. Just sitting out on the table, no reheating, ‘as is’ with a bit of Ketchap manis. ‘Oh well’, we said ‘at least we didn’t get sick last time’. Famous last words.

So I pose a question to you, as someone who has always been cautious about eating ‘local food’ or ‘street food’. I always hear people talking about how incredible it is, and how it is ‘real travel’ to eat this sort of thing. Is there good tasty street food out there, or is it all like what we ate? Are these street food connoisseurs just eating at the tourist friendly, sanitised markets and calling it local immersion?


There are 4 comments on this post
  1. Rob & Linda Rule
    February 24, 2019, 11:56 pm

    Oh what an adventure! Thanks for the interesting blog – what an exasperating time you had getting your vehicle container. Michael, I must tell you, Rob eats ‘street food’ but I never do. Hope Margie & Baz are enjoying the journey. I guess you have to stay upbeat and I hope the rest of the journey doesn’t have so many mishaps.
    Rob is off to China (Guilin) next week with a mate to go on bike riding tour for three weeks – he will have an adventure too!
    Best wishes to you all
    Linda & Rob xxx

    • Rule
      March 07, 2019, 6:35 am

      Hi Linda and Rob. It was a pretty difficult time but we finally got the car. Hope Rob has a great time cycling in China!

  2. Pamela Sutton
    March 19, 2019, 4:00 am

    Loved this Blog! Loved that you asked us a question too!
    so to answer question one “Is there good tasty street food out there, or is it all like what we ate?”
    Answer: YES! there is great street food out there NO! its not all like what you experienced. Actually in my experience the street food is always tastier than any restaurant food, even if you went to the best restaurant the locals had to offer.
    And the second question “Are these street food connoisseurs just eating at the tourist friendly, sanitised markets and calling it local immersion?”
    You may be right. I am very choosy about what street food I eat. I have “rules” these are 1. Volume: I watch the vendors, see who has the highest turnover and the most number of people choosing to eat there, 2. Sanitary: does the meat look ok and is it stored ok and will the type of cooking kill anything unsavory that might make me sick. I stick to these rules regardless of whether its a tourist friendly sanitized market or a local back street vendor. Perhaps other people have rules too?

    • Rule
      March 20, 2019, 8:21 am

      Thanks for the advice Pam. I like your ‘rules’ for food. We just decided the same thing, we have to go where the people are. WE have tried a few more places since and it is getting better. Asking people for recommendations seems to be working too. I think ultimately our western stomachs cant handle everything that the locals eat, but I think if we can persist it will be worth it!

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