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What Is Lontong?

By Sonal Panse
Updated May 16, 2024
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Lontong is a compressed rice cake that is popular in Malaysia and Indonesia. Its ingredients consist of compressed rice, carrots, beans, potatoes and meat, and it is usually eaten with soups, stews, curries and salads. These type of rice dishes are eaten as snack foods generally, and can be purchased in many Asian food shops and food carts selling Asia fare.

Traditionally, lontong is made by rolling partially boiled rice and vegetables in a banana leaf. Any type of rice can be used to make this dish, but many cooks prefer to use the long grained basmati rice. This type of rice is more easily compressed and makes for a more solid rice cake.

The rice is first washed and then boiled over moderate heat, with a pinch of salt added to the water. The heat is then turned down and the rice is cooked for about 10 minutes. The pot is removed from the heat and set aside for a while to allow the rice to absorb the water and to cool down. The cooked rice is scooped out and placed on a well-washed banana leaf. The leaf is rolled tightly into a cylinder, and both ends are folded shut and secured with a clove or a toothpick.

The banana leaf cylinder is boiled for about two hours. This process makes the banana leaf shrink and compress the rice. The cylinders are then removed from the hot water and allowed to cool. The banana leaf is unfolded and discarded, and the compressed rice roll is cut into small ready to eat pieces.

If banana leaves are not available, lontong can be made using steel molds or aluminum cooking foil; the steel molds are available in many Asian food stores. If cooking with the aluminum foil, it will be necessary to prick a few holes in the foil after the rice has been rolled up. The holes will allow the hot water to seep inside and cook the rice.

Lontong may be eaten with bakso, which is an Indonesian soup made with meatballs. Another favored Indonesian dish is satay or sate, which is grilled, skewered meat in peanut sauce. The typically Malaysian dishes that are eaten with lontong are sayur lodeh, which is a stew made with vegetables and coconut, and rendang, which is a meat and coconut spicy curry.

A rather similar compressed rice dish is ketupat, but here the rice is packed in palm leaves. The shape of the rice cake is made square instead of cylindrical. Ketupat is served and eaten in much the same way as lontong.

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