Ketupat is one of the few popular Malay delicacies that have been listed as heritage food in Malaysia. The Ketupat, when translated in English, is literally a type of rice dumpling or rice cake made from glutinous rice. It’s usually wrapped in a triangular shape using the leaves of the fan palm (Licuala). This sort of dumpling is usually eaten with rendang which is a type of dry beef curry.
The ketupat, wrapped in a pouch of woven palm leaves, is then boiled for hours. As the rice cooks, the grains expand to fill the pouch and the rice becomes compressed into soft cakes. This method of cooking gives the ketupat its characteristic form and texture of a rice dumpling. Ketupat is usually eaten with rendang (a type of dry beef curry) or served as an accompaniment to satay.
Legend has it that the style of wrapping Ketupat into triangular form was passed down through generations from seafarers. In the past, there was a need for the seafarers to keep the rice from spoiling during long sea voyages. As a result, coco leaves used in wrapping the rice were always shaped into a triangular form and stored hanging in bunches in the open air. The shape of the package facilitates moisture to drip away from the cooked rice while the coco leaves allow the rice to be aerated and at the same time prevent flies and insects from touching it during the sea voyages.
In Malaysia, Ketupat is also traditionally served by Malays at open houses on festive occasions such as Idul Fitri (Hari Raya Aidilfitri). During Idul Fitri in Indonesia, ketupat is often served with chicken curry, accompanied with spicy soy powder.
There are many varieties of ketupat, with two of the more common ones being ketupat nasi (white rice version) and ketupat pulut (glutinous rice version). Ketupat nasi is made from white rice and is wrapped in a square shape with coconut palm leaves while ketupat pulut is made from glutinous rice and is usually wrapped in a triangular shape using the leaves of the fan palm (Licuala). Ketupat pulut is also called “ketupat daun palas” in Malaysia.
Ketupat is easily found everywhere in Malaysia. It’s available in most Malay restaurants throughout the country. In fact, most buffets style meals served in upscale restaurants in five-star hotels do include ketupat in their menu. Otherwise, if you order ketupat in small restaurants or Malay stalls, the price should cost no more than RM10 for a few pieces of ketupat that usually comes with rendang or dry beef curry. All in all, the ketupat is definitely a must-try Malay delicacy especially for expats and those who are keen to try food of other culture.
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