Ketupat (Steamed Rice Dumplings)

22 Aug

I still have to wrap up Taiwan, but I wanted to do a quick post in honor of Hari Raya, or Eid al-Fitr as it’s called in the rest of the world. This two-day (or longer) celebration marks the end of Ramadan, and in Malaysia — for those who celebrate — it’s kind of like Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. And, like those holidays, it’s celebrated with special foods, like ketupat.

Ketupat is rice that’s packed into cute little baskets woven from coconut fronds and then boiled. As the rice cooks, it expands to fill the packet, creating a compressed cake of rice. (Actually, “cake” or “dumpling” is a nice way to describe them; “brick” would be a less flattering but more accurate term.) Ketupat is traditionally served with rendang, a dry Malay curry thickened with toasted coconut. The texture of ketupat does work as an accompaniment to the curry — like a heavy matzo ball, it absorbs the flavors of the rendang — but all in all, I still prefer the other festive rice dish, lemang, which is glutinous rice steamed with coconut milk inside bamboo. (Unfortunately, lemang can be difficult and messy to serve without a machete, as we discovered.)

The question is, what do I do with my leftover ketupat packets? They would make great projectiles, but we don’t have monkeys at our condo (yet), and I don’t think management would be too happy about me hurling them over the balcony.

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