East Timor

The unprovoked cooking adventure continues: I checked out East Timor this week. My first reaction was "what the f is East Timor," so let me share the knowledge with you. It's a small (~1m) country in SE Asia, on the eastern part of the island Timor. Up until a couple of decades ago it was a Portuguese colony, with a devastatingly low living standard. 'Timor' means 'east' in Malay, so ... it's technically called 'East East,' yes. It got independence from Portugal in the 70's, only to be occupied by Indonesia a few days later. At the turn of the century we're looking at a sovereign republic that is slowly improving, with their second president having been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. They mostly rely on agriculture (coffee) and about half of the population lives in extreme poverty, with malnutrition being common, and the adult literacy rate is at about 50%.
Since I couldn't expect to find most of the ingredients they use in cooking (e.g. palm tree bark that's made into jelly during the 'hungry season'), I went for the stuff found in most former Portuguese colonies. The first one is caril, a mild version of curry (not impressed), and the second is a high-end dessert - pasteis de nata. Those things have a very interesting history: they were first made by monks who tried to come up with something to do with the egg yolks they'd have after using the whites for starching their robes (source). I made puff pastry and I made custard and I'm still alive and thoroughly shocked that this worked. Go me.

pastel de nata

References: Wiki, random source 1, pastel de nata