Kupang Traditional Market

September 12, 2015

“Where are you from?” they ask us. “Where is your home in America?” “How long was your flight?”  It is difficult to answer and it is hard to explain in our few basic phrases. Our home has been only the boat for more than five years and  San Francisco, California is written on the transom, so it’s the best answer we can offer.

I think the true answer may come when I start to feel homesick. It’s the big latte at Cafe Fanny on a cold Saturday morning. It’s the vegan yuba roll ups at the Berkeley Whole Foods Market, eaten in the car after making it through the busy store. It’s the endless vegetables at the Berkeley Bowl. It’s the carne asada tostada salad at Picante Taqueria. It’s Acme bread’s big round walnut loaf worth the long lines at the Mountain View farmer’s market. It’s the roast beef sandwich I crave from Whole Foods. It’s that smell in the air in the Penny Ice Creamery. It’s the dark chocolate salt caramels at Recchiuti. Maybe home is the San Francisco Bay Area after all.

But what about the perfect flat whites that Brisbane offered up every day? And the West End market for rostis and Blackstar cold brew coffees to go along with vegetables and live music. What about the massive beautiful piles of perfect herbs on the tables at the market in Port Vila? And the Indian food in Fiji? Those beautiful limes that reveal their orange flesh when you cut into them in Tonga? And the delicious Tongan eggs- worth borrowing a friend’s egg boxes because my three dozen seemed too few? Pamplemouse. Yes of course, I’d sail another 2600 miles for one. These are the things that mark my voyage around the world and signify my being home.

We don’t travel like tourists. We live where we are. We find groceries, a way to do the laundry, bits and pieces we need from the hardware store, do paperwork, wander, walk and look around.  We don’t often eat in restaurants, we’re often home on the boat when the bars are open. So we rarely mix with the tourists. What we see is mostly normal daily life wherever we are.

So today we went to the “Traditional Market” to take a peek around and buy as much food as we could carry home to prepare us for a bit more sailing and being away from the city. I had in mind what I was after, but not much food is grown around Kupang, and it has been an extra dry season and mangoes are late, but watermelons are in season.

With a little language help from Raly we wandered through the market today. He told me what eggs were too small and where to buy good tempeh. I found lemongrass, ginger, garlic, galangal, chiles, and limes easily. I pointed at something that I thought was desiccated coconut, but instead I bought Kupang sea salt. I was served tofu straight out of the bucket by the man who reached his hand in.  I wanted too little and he insisted I buy ten pieces, not five. I bought hundreds of tiny little shallots, some garlic, fresh nutmeg, some cloves, a pile of limes, a drinking coconut, cabbage, green beans, an enormous bag of tomatoes, two mysterious green vegetables, cucumbers, a watermelon and a dozen eggs. I had the choice of live chicken or dead. “AYAM AYAM AYAM,” they shouted at me, but I decided it was a good time to be mostly vegetarian.

The fish boys tried out their English and we were laughed at by the ladies selling greens. We figured out more numbers and probably got the right change. Kids waved at our kids. Motorcycles and people pushing carts whizzed by. We knew we were done at the market when we had as much as we can carry.

On the way home I whispered to the kids that we had spent around $15. Though they had asked for water coconuts many times in Australia I had said no at $5 each. It was not necessary today at about 50 cents each for the coconut that was big enough for all four of us to have a satisfying drink and snack on. Indeed our haul was quite remarkable.

When I dug in and started cooking, it was fried rice, Nasi Goreng, made from Charmaine Solomon’s Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore cookbook, modified for tofu instead of chicken and shrimp. The gluten free soy sauce was from our stores on the boat, as was the oil (it seems impossible to find oil other than palm oil here), but everything else was from the market today.

I had some hesitations about dinner tonight. To buy a dinner of fried rice on the street we would pay around $1 each, and it was a little discouraging to set out cooking for an hour or so for a similar meal. I cracked an egg and it smelled okay, but the second one was horrible and I went on to throw four away before finding acceptable ones. The cucumber was full of seeds and devoid of taste. The tofu was a bit more sour than I would have hoped for.

Overall everyone was happy with dinner and we found the watermelon delicious, but at the moment I don’t think that cheaper food and local food is better. We’ll move on tomorrow, and I’ll be looking for the next chance to get to the market, looking for the next great meal, and looking for that bite that feels like home.


  1. Comment by Jenny gaskell

    Jenny gaskell September 12, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Beautifully written Victoria felt like I was with you and wished I was . Miss you all Condesa x

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