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Ketupat (in Indonesian and Malay) or Kupat (in Javanese and Sundanese) is a type of dumpling made from rice packed inside woven palm leaf pouch. It is commonly found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and the Philippines (where it is known by the name pusô in Cebuano, bugnóy in Hiligaynon, patupat in Kapampangan and Pangasinan, or ta’mu in Tausug). It is commonly described as "packed rice", although there are other types of similar packed rices such as lontong and bakchang.
The use of woven young palm leaves (janur) as a pouch to cook food is widespread in Maritime Southeast Asia, from Indonesia, Malaysia, to the Philippines. Ketupat is made from rice that has been wrapped in a woven palm leaf pouch and boiled. As the rice cooks, the grains expand to fill the pouch and the rice becomes compressed. This method of cooking gives the ketupat its characteristic form and texture of a rice dumpling.
Local stories passed down through the generations have attributed the creation of this style of rice preparation to the seafarers' need to keep cooked rice from spoiling during long sea voyages. The coco leaves used in wrapping the rice are always shaped into a triangular or diamond form and stored hanging in bunches in the open air. The shape of the package facilitates moisture to drip away from the cooked rice while the coco leaves allow the rice to be aerated and at the same time prevent flies and insects from touching it.
In Java and most of Indonesia, ketupat is linked to Islamic tradition of lebaran (Eid ul-Fitr), nevertheless ketupat is also known in non-Muslim communities, such as Hindu Bali and Christian Philippines. According to Javanese traditions, the Indonesian lebaran tradition was first started when Sunan Bonang, one of Wali Songo of Tuban in 15th-century Java, calls for the Muslims to elevate the perfection of their Ramadhan fast by asking forgiveness and forgiving others' wrongdoings. The tradition on preparing and consuming ketupat or kupat in Javanese language during lebaran is believed to be introduced by Sunan Kalijaga, one of Wali Songo (nine Muslim saints) that spread Islam in Java, as it contains appropriate symbolism. It is believed that kupat means ngaku lepat or "admitting one's mistakes" in Javanese language, in accordance to asking for forgiveness tradition during lebaran. The crossed weaving of palm leafs symbolizes mistakes and sins committed by human beings, and the inner whitish rice cake symbolize purity and deliverance from sins after observing Ramadhan fast, prayer and rituals. Other than Java, the tradition on consuming ketupat during Eid ul-Fitr is also can be found throughout Indonesia; from Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara, also to neighboring Malaysia.
Ketupat is cut open, its skin (woven palm leaf) being removed, the inner rice cake is cut in pieces, and served as staple food, as the replacement of plain steamed rice. It usually eaten with rendang, opor ayam, sayur labu (jicama soup), sambal goreng ati (liver in sambal) or served as an accompaniment to satay (chicken or beef or lamb in skewers) or gado-gado (mixed vegetables with peanut sauce).
There are many varieties of ketupat, with two of the more common ones being ketupat nasi and ketupat pulut. Ketupat nasi is made from white rice and is wrapped in a square shape with coconut palm leaves while ketupat pulut is made from glutinous rice is usually wrapped in a triangular shape using the leaves of the fan palm (Licuala). Ketupat pulut is also called "ketupat daun palas" in Malaysia.
Ketupat is also traditionally served by Indonesian and Malays at open houses on festive occasions such as lebaran or Idul Fitri (Hari Raya Aidilfitri). During Idul Fitri in Indonesia, ketupat is often served with either opor ayam (chicken in coconut milk), chicken or beef curry, rendang, sambal goreng ati (spicy beef liver), krecek (buffalo or beef skin dish), or sayur labu Siam (chayote soup). Ketupat or lontong is also used as the replacement of plain steamed rice in gado-gado, karedok, or pecel. It also used as main ingredient in Sundanese and Javanese dish kupat tahu (ketupat, tofu, and beansprouts served in peanut sauce).
Among the Moro (Muslim) groups of the Philippines, ketupat is served with an array of dishes including tiyulah itum, rendang, ginataang manok, kurma and satay. It is served during special occasions such as Eid'l Fitr, Eid'l Adha and weddings.
Among Christian Filipinos, pusô, as ketupat is locally known, is also traditionally used as a pabaon or a packed lunch, traditionally brought by workers, served with any selection of stews. Pusô is also widely eaten in the side streets of Cebu with pork or chicken skewers and other grilled selections.
In Hindu-majority Bali, ketupat is used as one of the temple offerings. In Java, among traditional Muslim abangan community, the woven empty or uncooked ketupat skin is often hung as an amulet to symbolize wealth and prosperity.
Because in Indonesia ketupat is strongly linked to Islamic Eid ul-Fitr, it is also used as decorations. The empty ketupat skin woven from colorful ribbons are used as decorations to signify this festive occasions, in the same fashions as bells to signify Christmas. Colorful ribbon ketupat are often used to decorate shopping malls, offices, or as decorations of gift parcels.