Ketupat is a popular and favorite dish or food in Pahang and Malaysia.
It is a simple dumpling made from rice, and is normally eaten with a somewhat sweet and sometimes slightly spicy peanut sauce or gravy, known as kuah kacang or kuah sate.
This delicacy is something like nasi himpit (or nasi kapit) except that the rice is boiled and compacted through the use of palm leaves that has been woven in the shape of a square.
In Pahang when we say ketupat, it is normally referred to the nasi or rice version.
Another version is the ketupat palas or ketupat pulut which is made of glutinous rice and is triangular shaped.
It is cooked in a triangular-shaped receptacle or pouch made from leaves of "palas" or fan palms (licuala), hence its name.
The leaves used in the making or weaving for the ketupat receptacle or pouch are taken from the palm leaves of coconut trees. However only the younger palm leaves, which are softer, are selected to ensure that the leaves are malleable.
Weaving of this receptacle is by hand and requires some basic skill as two leaves (one in each hand), minus their middle ribs, are needed to make the receptacle and it must be perfectly enclosed to ensure that the expanded rice will not go out.
Usually before festivals such as Aidil Fitr and Aidil Adha, young Malay girls watching their moms or aunties preparing the receptacles will be taught the weaving method which can be learned in a few minutes when they are taught "on-the-job", that is, when directly doing it themselves by following the instructions.
I used to watch with interest also how my mom and elder sisters did the weaving, which looked quite easy though.
But I can’t seem to master it, even after following instructions, as both the ends of my leaves always didn’t end at the right place for the final knot!
Once prepared, a small handful of grains of plain white rice that had already been washed and cleaned, will be inserted into a small opening in the square-shaped receptacle or pouch, which will then be closed off. The rice used can be of any variety.
Only about a third of the woven leaf-receptacle is filled with the rice, because when fully boiled, the rice will expand and fill up the receptacle.
Cooking this rice dumpling involves boiling them in a pot filled with water, and it is taken out when the rice inside is fully cooked.
Compressed and compacted by limited size of the receptacle or pouch, the rice will thus shape itself into a square. If the weaving is not done nicely or too much rice had been inserted, some of the cooked ones may see rice spilling out of tiny holes of the receptacle.
Anyway, once boiled, they will be left to cool before it is cut with a knife, usually into even, mouth-sized slices of four, when serving.
This dish is usually eaten with gravy made from grounded nuts that have been sometimes grounded fine and some in chunks for extra crunchiness, known as kuah kacang or nutty gravy, or more popularly known as kuah sate (satay gravy) since it is the usual gravy or sauce when eating satay.
Besides the kuah sate, it is also popularly eaten with rendang whether, chicken or beef. And they are also delightful when taken with fish, beef or chicken floss or serunding in Malay.
And if ketupat slices are used in a lontong dish, then they are put into the slightly sweet coconut curry and eaten together with veggies and other ingredients of the lontong.
Outside the main festivals, this compressed rice is normally eaten as an accompaniment of the satay.
It is interesting to note that when eating the satay during normal days, the ketupat is normally taken in very small portions but during festivals like Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, we see a converse when more of them is eaten than satay.
In fact, being a rice-based dumpling, it can be eaten in place of the normal white rice, and taken together with other dishes that are usually eaten with rice, except that since it is compressed, eating a few pieces will be enough to fill an empty stomach!
Well, the ketupat is usually the must-have of traditional offerings during Malay festivals in Pahang.
Umm mumm.... delicious.
So when you’re in Pahang or Malaysia, do not forget to try it.
As always from me ...