Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Ketupat (rice cakes)

Ketupat is a rice dish that's served on special occasions, most commonly on the Lebaran (Idul Fitri) holiday at the end of Ramadan, but also on birthdays and weddings. Mrs K likes to cook it at any time.

Ketupat, by Meutia Chaerani from Wikimedia Commons

It's not a dish on its own, but a special way of cooking rice. In Indonesia, coconut or pandan leaves are used to create little woven containers into which the raw rice (known as beras: rice doesn't become nasi until it's cooked) is poured. On boiling, the rice expands and becomes compressed, making a solid cake. After it's cooled it can be cut easily into slices or cubes - it's normally eaten cold, and can be stored for a couple of days in the fridge.

Rather than scratch around for suitable leaves in the UK (banana leaves work, apparently), Mrs K came up with her own special method, using boil-in-the-bag rice (in fact, when we we first moved here, she thought this stuff was actually high-tech ketupat).

The only problem is that boil-in-the-bag rice doesn't contain enough rice to generate the compression needed, so once again Mrs K applied her eminently practical brain. She carefully cuts the bag open at the top, removes the rice and mixes in some extra; since she hates the easy-cook stuff they usually contain, she usually uses Thai fragrant rice or basmati.

After stuffing about 7-8 dessert spoons of rice back into the bag, Mrs K heat-seals it using a candle. We have tried various other ways, such as sellotape, elastic bands, bulldog clips and other contraptions, but the heat-sealing method gives the best results. A cigarette lighter would be just as good, but whichever you use take care not to set the bag (or your fingers) alight. It doesn't take much heat to melt the plastic.

Boil the newly-stuffed bag in a medium saucepan for about 1.5 hours, topping up the water with boiling water occasionally to keep the bag submerged. After about an hour, put a knob of margarine or butter in the pan. When you find it hard to distinguish the individual rice grains, it's cooked. Err on the side of caution, you can't really overcook it.

When done, take the pillow of rice out of the pan and leave it to cool for at least an hour or two before trying to cut it - preferably until it's completely cold. For a quick snack you can eat it with some hot peanut sauce.

All is revealed in the video below.

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