Zainab’s ‘Ketupat Palas’ Reaches Saudi Arabia

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KUALA TERENGGANU – ‘ Ketupat palas’, is one of the many traditional delicacies that are readily available during Ramadan and Syawal, especially in the state of Terengganu.

Whether it’s eaten or fried in advance, this food, a type of dumpling made from glutinous rice packed inside a diamond-shaped pouch woven using the frond of the increasingly scarce fan palm licuala grandis, is delicious and has a lot of fans.

However, despite the difficulty in getting the ‘palas’ leaf to wrap the glutinous rice, ‘ketupat palas’ maker from Kampung Bukit Tunggal, Kuala Nerus, Zainab Awang has no choice but to go on as it is a source of her family’s income since 2000.

She said she is forced to hire villagers at Gemuruh to look for ‘palas’ leaves at RM30 for every 10 ‘palas’ fronds.

“Initially, I was not good at making ‘ketupat palas’. One day, I went to a villager to learn to make it but she discouraged me from learning to make the delicacy as she saw that I was struggling to pick up skill. She told me to give up because I was inept,” she said.

“I returned home. It feels sad when people look down on me. Then, I started thinking again on how to generate more income because I have many children, eight, my late husband was then a fisherman.

“Determined, I approached some one else. It still took three days to learn how to wrap the pouch. After I was good at it, I immediately started making ‘ketupat palas’ for daily sale, besides making ‘pulut lepa’ (grilled glutinous rice with fish paste inside wrapped in banana leaf),” she told Bernama.

Zainab, now assisted by her children, continues to sell ‘ketupat palas’ this Ramadan around the village and makes close to RM200 a day.

She said she also receives requests for her ‘ketupat palas’, which are made using a traditional herbal concoction of her family, from outsiders, especially those who are returning to their respective villages ahead of the Aidilfitri celebration.

For this fasting month, she said, as early as after sahur (pre-dawn meal) her daughter Noraida Ismail, 41, and herself, will start steaming 15 kg of glutinous rice which can produce 375 ‘ketupat palas’.

“I will heat the coconut milk first before stirring it with the glutinous rice so that the ‘ketupat palas’ will last longer and will not go bad too quickly.

“I have also received orders for ‘ketupat palas’ from people to take home to Perak, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, in fact also from Saudi Arabia. I do not expect my ‘ketupat palas’ to have a lot of fans, “she said happily.

Recognising the competition from other ‘ketupat palas’ maker around Kuala Terengganu and her village, Zainab sells her ‘ketupat palas’ at RM0.50 each despite the rise in the prices of goods.

“I don’t make excessive profits .. I am already very thankful I can feed my family..as this is only what I can do to help my family,” she said. – BERNAMA