Ketupat, the diamond-shaped pouch for Hari Raya

There is no Hari Raya without ketupat, the traditional rice cake wrapped neatly in a pouch made of palm leaf. Centuries ago, ketupat served travellers who wanted to make sure their rice would not turn bad during long voyages. Today, ketupat is the main dish, a must-have for every Eid gathering in Malaysia. It is best eaten with rendang (a meat dish cooked in coconut and spices) and serunding (meat floss).

For almost a decade, Nadira Saidi has been making ketupat, faithfully following a recipe handed down through generations.The ketupat variant that Nadira makes is called ketupat palas. It is triangular in shape and popular in the northern states.The ingredients for ketupat are glutinous rice, coconut milk, salt and sugar.Nadira's ketupat originates from Perlis. It's called "ketupat palas utara lemak masin".Careful attention is given to cooking the rice for the ketupat. Not too raw, not too cooked is the rule of thumb to ensure optimal texture and taste.Palm leaves to wrap the rice can be sourced from the wild. Nowadays, they are sold ready-made.Nadirah prefers to do everything herself. It's what ensures that her ketupat is original, using methods passed down from generations. Here, she cleans the palm leaves, still fresh from the tree.The palm leaf is cleaned before it is cut into ribbon-like strips.The rice is cooked and ready to be wrapped with "daun palas" (fan palm leaves).Wrapping ketupat is an art. It requires a certain skill to make the diamond-shaped pouches. Nadira and an assistant spend hours sitting on the floor, wrapping the ketupat rice. Even ketupat has a gender, which can be identified by its style of wrapping. Can you tell which is male and female? The one on the left is male, or "balutan utara" (northward wrapping), and the female is called "balutan timur" (eastward wrapping).Nadira holds packets of her ketupat, frozen and ready to be sold. Last year, she made 2,200kg of ketupat palas, compared to just 60kg when she first started.