In Malaysia, ‘ketupat nasi’ or traditional rice cakes are very popular during Eid celebrations. It is one of the most popular foods served in homes and hotels during the Eid celebrations. A greeting card with a picture of ‘ketupat nasi’ would be understood as an Eid greeting card even without any word written on the cover. By the way, I have never seen a birthday card with a picture of ‘ ketupat nasi’!
Neon lights in the shape of ‘ketupat nasi’ decorated houses, shops and buildings. Replicas of ‘ ketupat nasi’ in all sizes and colours are hanged in houses, shops, shopping complexes, offices, road side and other public places to mark the Eid season. Even shopping bags are decorated with pictures of ‘ketupat nasi’.
Even though in my hometown (Kuala Terengganu) ‘ketupat nasi’ is not as popular as ‘ketupat pulut’ as a special delicacy served during Eid, the significant of ‘ketupat nasi’ to Eid is still the same as in other parts of Malaysia. In fact, I’ve never seen of any decorative item in the shape of ‘ketupat pulut’ used in my hometown.
Since ‘ketupat nasi’ is not so popular in Terengganu, the Terengganu folks are not so familiar with the art of weaving the ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’ (ketupat nasi cover). Mum was lucky to master the art – learnt the skill from their Indonesian helper when mum was about my age. And yesterday my sister and I had the chance to learn the art of weaving ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’ from mum.
Learning to weave the ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’ was not as hard as i thought. But I really need to pay attention, concentrate and be patient. Mum weaved slowly so that we can follow and after 5 minutes, I managed to weave my first ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’! After a while I understand the ‘trick’ and be able to master the weaving process.
Since we were out of young coconut leaves, mum used ribbons instead of the leaves. Actually for cooking the rice cakes, we need to weave young coconut leaves into ‘kelongsong’ as moulds to cook the rice cakes. The ‘kelongsong’ made from ribbons are used as Eid decorations.
Nowadays the city folks normally do not weave the ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’ for Eid anymore. They either buy the ready made ‘ketupat nasi’ or the ready made ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’ sold in farmer’s markets all around KL. In fact the easier and faster way of cooking ‘ketupat nasi’ is by using heat proof plastic covers as moulds instead of the traditional young coconut leaves ‘kelongsong’. There are even prepacked ‘ketupat nasi’ in plastic packets that only needed to be boiled in water.
No wonder nowadays the skill of weaving ‘kelongsong ketupat nasi’ is almost a forgotten art especially among city girls like me. What a pity when we prefer using plastics instead of leaves. Not only do the young coconut leaves give a nice aroma to the ‘ketupat nasi’; the leaves are also environmental friendly. And there is also the question about which type of plastic that is safe to be used as the boiling process can take over an hour. So, using certain plastic to cook ‘ketupat’ could harm our health as well as our environment.