My first DEWA concert in Jakarta's Hard Rock Cafe for Valentine's Day 2002; I have been a fan for years so needless to say I was ecstatic to see them play live
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Making Ketupat Daun Palas
by fairy (26-Nov-2003) | Readers Say

In the Malay world, ketupat has always been the signature food item that must be prepared, served and eaten during the Muslim festival of Hari Raya or Eid. Whether you hail from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore or Brunei, celebrating the arrival of the month of Syawal without this specially compressed rice treat would be the most unnatural, if not unthinkable, thing to do.

People go to great lengths to get ketupat for Hari Raya; some will pre-order them weeks on advance. My family on the other hand prefers to make our own ketupats. My parents would enthusiastically round up our family members just a day or two before Eid to menganyam (weave) and masak (cook) ketupat daun palas.

There are two kinds of ketupat that I am familiar with in Malaysia: ketupat nasi and ketupat daun palas. Apparently ketupat daun palas is a Northern Malaysian (Penang, Kedah, Perlis) specialty and since I grew up eating ketupat daun palas, I find them to be the best tasting ketupat, reason being that they are cooked with coconut milk while ketupat nasi is just made of plain rice.

We started our ketupat project with these daun palas which are long leaves from a palm tree of the Licuala species. You can purchase them from the pasar (marketplace) especially during the fasting month of Ramadan just before Hari Raya. In the days of old, these leaves were sometimes used for making the roof on top of kampung houses.

The leaves need to be wiped clean from their hairy husks before you start working on them. Trim the tip and unfold its fan-like leaf, like so.

You would then roll the leaf up like you would homemade cigarette to make it more flexible.

My dad always tells me that you start out by folding the one corner of the daun palas into a cone.

After a series of funky twists and turns of the daun palas, you'll get a pile of beautifully woven ketupat shells. This is a skill that I've never quite been able to grasp, much less describe in writing. You can pretty much give me banana peels to weave ketupat shells and save the daun palas from my destruction.
An empty ketupat is useless on its own unless you plan to just use them for decorative purposes. So stuff your ketupat up with rice, of course! The rice is of the beras pulut type, mixed in with water and santan (coconut milk) (with a pinch of salt to taste) and cooked until halfway done.

For aesthetic purposes, Mom likes to trim off the long end of the ketupat.

Sometimes people will choose to not cut that long end of the ketupat and will instead use it knot the ketupat. This secures the ketupat content from spilling out.

It's funny to say this, but ketupats have sexes too! Depending on how you fold your ketupat shell, you'll get a ketupat betina ("female" ketupat) or a ketupat jantan ("male" ketupat)! Makes me feel like sending out congratulatory cards for every "boy" and "girl" ketupat we make! :D
My mother would always say don't make your ketupat too big, like this big bad "boy" ketupat! Bigger ketupats take longer to cook. So make small and medium-sized ketupats, you'll be glad you did.

Once you've stuffed all your ketupat shells with the half-cooked rice, heap them all up in a giant pot, after filling the bottom of the pot with few inches of water. The ketupats will take about an hour or two to cook, depending on how many exactly you lumped into your pot.
When done, the color of ketupat leaves will turn a yellowish brown. The aroma of freshly steamed ketupat in their daun palas casing is a wondrous sensation to the nose.

Unwrapping a ketupat is one of my many favorite things to do. A well-made ketupat daun palas will turn out nice, firm and chewy. It will also taste flavorful and rich, and will be somewhat oily to the touch. Ketupats are best eaten with beef or chicken rendang. For some however, eating ketupat daun palas on its own is a reward in itself!

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Update!
(29 Aug 2011) In conjunction with Hari Raya Aidilfitri, I have created a short Youtube video of my Dad weaving and stuffing a ketupat daun palas! Check it out below or visit it here.

(23 Dec 2005) Read about how the ketupat photos from this article made their way into a book published by McGraw-Hill called Weavers of the World!

WHAT READERS SAY ABOUT Making Ketupat Daun Palas: