The manner of wrapping the ketupat into a rhombus shape was passed down from seafarers through generations. To keep rice from spoiling during long sea voyages, coconut leaves were used to wrap the rice before stored hanging in bunches in the open air. The shape of the pouches facilitates moisture to drip away from the cooked rice while the coconut leaves allow the rice to be aerated, and also prevents contamination from flies and insects along sea voyages.
Ketupat is a prominent symbol used to represent Malay festive holidays. The name was derived from the Javanese term “ngaku lepat”, which means “admitting one’s mistakes.” The dish also represents the experience Muslims go through during Ramadan. The green interwoven casing is a symbol for the variety of human error and sins, while the inner white rice represents purity and deliverance from sins at the conclusion of the Ramadan fasting month.
Ketupat nasi is made from white rice wrapped into a square shape with coconut palm leaves. On the other hand, ketupat pulut is made from glutinous rice wrapped in a triangular shape using the palm leaves.