Throughout the last day of Ramadhan, our small kitchen was cramped with food and all of us were suddenly upgraded into ‘chefs of the day’. My little sister Aeshah baked trays of lovely cupcakes. At the other end of the kitchen, while singing at the top of her voice, Anisah helped my mother who was cooking rendang and kuah kacang, driving my mom quite mad. Even little Ali sat cross-legged on his chair, weaving kelongsong ketupat nasi for me to fill in with rice later. Usually, I would be preparing the ketupat nasi and weave most of the kelongsongs; but this Eid was special. For the first time, I made the true Terengganu ‘ttupak pulok’ instead!
‘Ttupak pulok‘, which is also known as ‘ketupat daun palas’ in standard Malay, is a type of glutinous rice delicacy, steamed with coconut milk and wrapped in a special leaf named ‘daun palas’ before it is fried to perfection. Since it is so easy to get them in Kuala Terengganu where my parents came from, neither my mother nor my grandmothers know how to prepare them. To quote what my great grandmother told my mom when asked for the recipe, “Bakpe nok belajor sangak. Buak nyussoh je. Ppasor blambok, beli je senang.” “Why bother? You can buy loads of them from the market.”
However, living in Kuala Lumpur, we do not have the luxury of having those authentic Terengganu’s ‘ttupak pulok’ sold in markets or farmer’s markets around our place. It is not that nobody sells ketupat palas here, but the tasty, rich and firm textured Terengganu’s ‘ttupak pulok’ is none to be seen. And since we are unable to return to Terengganu for Eid due to my father’s tight schedule, my mother announced that she’ll be making her own ‘ttupak pulok’, which happens to be one of her favourite foods.
And imagine my mother’s delight a few weeks before Eid, when she caught the sight of daun palas being sold at the Pasar Tani (or the farmer’s market)!
“But mama, you said that you have never weaved a ‘ttupak pulok’ before,” I reminded her.
“No problem. We can always surf the internet for instructions later!” she exclaimed, her eyes sparkling with excitement.
So we spent the afternoon in front of our computer, our oily hands fragrant with coconut milk and sticky with glutinous rice as we tried again and again for a decent wrap. We had a great time and good laughs, mom squeezed most of her rice out of the wrap while I tore almost all of my leaves into half! It seems that while weaving a ketupat nasi looks harder than it actually is, it is the total opposite for ‘ttupak pulok” at least until one masters the technique. It took us a while to get to the hang of it but it was definitely worth it. In the end, we managed to come up with a batch of handsomely wrapped ‘ttupak puloks’. To speed up the process, while my mother was busy in the kitchen, I made a few ‘monster-sized’ ‘ttupak pulok’, which earned a stern warning from my mom, “That is a monster, not a ttupak, never, ever do that again”.
My mom took the ketupat to the kitchen and fried them to perfection. And the taste? They were so delicious, they tasted exactly like the good ol’ Terengganu’s ‘ttupak pulok’ which my mother missed so much. In fact, they tasted even better than some of those that we bought in Kuala Terengganu. Even my father was so impressed with the result that he suggested that we make should make ‘ttupak pulok’ to share with our close relatives and friends who happens to miss the delicious delicacy as much as we do for the Eid.
It’s funny and ironic when you think of how modern technology is able to preserve the traditional cooking methods and recipes despite it also influences a lot of people to leave their traditional and healthier way of cooking and eating. With the invention of instant ‘plastic ketupat’, almost all of my parent’s friends prepare their ketupats the easier way, despite the hazard it poses to their health. However without the help of the world wide web, neither my mom nor I would be able to enjoy the true Terengganu ‘ttupak pulok’ made from scratch in our own kitchen in Kuala Lumpur!