Koirambu: My Favorite Timorese Snack

Freshly fried koirambu

I’ve always had a weakness for sweets. Dessert was my favorite food when I was growing up and it’s still my favorite food now. Sadly the Timorese don’t have a dessert course but they do eat sweets – sometimes for breakfast to which I am not opposed. When this happens, I can always han tan, eat more.

Dosi is a catch-all term for cakes, cookies, any food – sweet or not sweet – that doesn’t fit into the 3 main Timorese food groups: 1) rice, 2) vegetable/fruit, and 3) meat. I’ve eaten a lot of dosi in my 100 days in country so much so that I’ve thought of opening a bakery when I get back to the states which I’ll call Dosi Dough. One thing that will always be on the menu will be my favorite Timorese dosi: Koirambu.

Koirambu: Funnel Cake’s great, crunchy grandmother

Koirambu (pronounced: queer-rahm-boo), I’m told, is a traditional Timorese snack – as old as the hills, as we would say back home. I take this with a grain of salt because Timor was colonized for over 500 years – first by Portugal and then by Indonesia so, I can’t help but think that Koirambu has to be influenced by one of those two cultures.

No matter. It’s slightly sweet with a big crispy crunch that I absolutely cannot stop eating. So when my cousins invited me over to see how it was made I went straight to my room, grabbed my camera, and made a bee-line for their house.

The recipe.

This recipe assumes you’ll want to make them in bulk and why wouldn’t you?

Ingredients:

  • 4 packages of rice flour
  • 4 C water at room temperature
  • 1 C honey (or sugar)

Directions: Preparation

Over a wood fire (or a stove or hot plate if you’re fancy) heat up 1″ of canola or vegetable oil in a wide but deep flat-bottomed pan. You’re essentially going to be pan frying these tasty treats.

In a very large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. If you want to be authentic, use your hands and put some muscle into it.

Mix the batter with your hands until it resembles old glue

Keep mixing until the consistency resembles old Elmer’s glue.

When the consistency is right and the oil is hot, grab a friend and give him or her a pair of heat-resistant tongs. Again, if you want to be authentic, use bamboo.

Directions: Frying

Using a wooden (or metal) spoon strainer and second wooden spoon handle, scoop some batter into the strainer and position it over the hot oil. Use the other wooden spoon handle to tap the strainer repeatedly so the batter continues to stream through the holes. Move the strainer around the pan in small circular motions until you’ve made about 3 layers of spirals. This part is difficult to describe; you’ll just have to eyeball it.

Shows the frying process of making koirambu
Tap the strainer repeatedly while making small circles

Let the three layers fry up for another 3-5 seconds. Then your friend with the tongs can manipulate the dough into shapes. Traditionally, koirambu are triangles but my family here also likes to shape them into bow ties and tubes.

Handmade bamboo tongs work well to shape the koirambu into triangles or bow ties

Fry the koirambu for another second or two post shaping . You want them to be a nice golden color, not burnt but not too blonde.  Gently remove it from the oil and place into a colander to drain.

Repeat until the batter is gone. Replenish the oil when it runs low but bring it back up to temperature before frying again. For quality control purposes, I recommend frequent samples.

They’ll keep for a few days in a sealed container but let’s be honest, when will there ever be leftovers?

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