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What Makes Indonesia’s Ketupat so Legendary? Check Out These 5 Facts!

Ramadan is considered a truly special time by many Muslims around the world. During this holy month, families would always gather during suhoor and iftar to share a moment by having a feast. As Ramadan ends, then comes a day of celebration known as Idulfitri (known generally as Eid al-Fitr in the rest of the world). During this big day, families would gather again to greet neighbors, meet with relatives, and have a huge fantastic feast.

The dishes that were served on idulfitri may vary between families, but there is one thing that will always appear together with these dishes. Known as ketupat, this iconic rice cake is a specialty of idulfitri often seen being served alongside the main dishes. So what makes this rice cake so legendary among Muslims in Indonesia? Let’s check out 5 interesting facts about ketupat below!


1. The history of ketupat 


The origin of ketupat goes way back even before the arrival of Islam in Indonesia. In the past, the people of Nusantara (the name for the archipelago before it was known as Indonesia) would hang a ketupat on the horns of a buffalo to show their gratitude for their harvests. This custom would then start to change symbolically in the 15th - 16th centuries when Sunan Kalijaga, a renowned preacher who has introduced Islam to Java, was trying to spread Muslim teaching early in his days. As a way to assimilate Islamic culture with the local culture so that the Muslim teachings would be accepted more easily in Java, Sunan Kalijaga would adopt ketupat as a symbol of idulfitri. This adoption was deemed to be successful, because soon after, Islam would eventually be accepted widely by the Javanese people.


2. As a symbol of apology 


Ketupat as the symbol of idulfitri possesses some meanings and philosophies. Beyond its versatility to be eaten with other dishes, Ketupat has two meanings, namely “ngaku lepat” which means admitting mistakes as well as “laku papat” which depicts the four sides of this legendary dish. Furthermore, each side of ketupat also has its names and meanings. One side of the ketupat, which is named Lebaran, means the door of forgiveness is opened for others. The second side, Luberan, means abundance and giving alms to people in need. The third side, Leburan, means to absolve the sins that have been done in a year. Finally, the fourth side, known as Laburan, has the meaning of purifying oneself or being pure again like a newborn.


3. Made with natural material 


Other than having deep meaning, ketupat is a very resourceful dish. Even its wraps were made of natural ingredients! To make ketupat, you only need to have a few things: rice, boiled water, salt, two to three sheets of pandan leaves, and janur (young coconut leaves for the woven wrap). The first step in making this iconic dish is by putting the rice into a medium-sized bowl and washing it with running clean water. After about 10 to 15 minutes, dispose of the water and fill it up again. Sprinkle salt or seasoning and stir until smooth and let it soak for a few moments. When it's done soaking all the seasonings, get rid of the water and drain the rice for a few minutes. As the rice dries, put it inside the janur wrappings (you can buy pre-made wrappings if you don’t have time to weave) along with bits of pandan leaves to make it fragrant. Bring the water to a boil and put the ketupat inside until it is completely submerged. Wait for 4 to 5 hours, then let it drain by hanging.


4. The intricate weaving technique 


The woven wrapping of ketupat is another thing that made the dish so celebrated. Weaving the janur for this wrapping is not an easy task to complete. You need to be precise and patient to make the wrapping of ketupat. The process of making this wrap also has its ing. The difficulty of weaving illustrates the diversity of Javanese society that must be bound together to keep the ties of their relationship.


5. Variety of serving ideas 


As already mentioned, ketupat is a very versatile dish. You can incorporate it into a wide array of dishes, whether it’s soupy or dry. Ketupat is always accompanied by other dishes that are rich in flavors such as opor ayam, sambal goreng, gulai, semur, chicken curry, soto, or Sumatra’s famous specialty rendang. The combination of the succulent ketupat and the spices from these dishes will make you want to eat for some more and more!


Need the recipe for other dishes that are perfect to be paired with ketupat? Discover more tasty Indonesian cuisine on this website! Always keep the CHSE (cleanliness, health, safety, and environmental sustainability) protocols in mind. Wear your mask, keep your distance, and remember to wash your hands often. Make sure you have followed our Instagram @wonderfulindonesia, Twitter @wondefulid,  Facebook @WonderfulIndonesia, Tiktok @wonderfulid and our Youtube Wonderful Indonesia to learn more about many more interesting cultures.