A traditional way of serving lontong
|Place of origin||Indonesia|
|Region or state||Nationwide in Indonesia and also in Malaysia and Singapore|
|Serving temperature||Room temperature|
|Main ingredient(s)||compressed rice cooked in banana leaf|
Lontong is a dish made of compressed rice cake in the form of a cylinder wrapped inside a banana leaf, commonly found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. The rice rolled inside banana leaf and boiled, then cut into small cakes as staple food replacement of steamed rice. It is commonly called nasi himpit ("pressed rice") in Malaysia. The smaller size of lontong filled with vegetables (carrot, common bean and potato) sometimes also filled with meat, are eaten as snack. The texture is similar to those of ketupat, with the difference that ketupat container was made from weaved janur (young coconut leaf), while lontong uses banana leaf instead.
The dish is usually served cold or at room temperature with peanut sauce-based dishes such as gado-gado, karedok, ketoprak, other traditional salads, and satay. It can be eaten as an accompaniment to coconut milk-based soups, such as soto, gulai and curries. It is also used as an alternative to vermicelli noodles.
Method of lontong making
Lontong is traditionally made by boiling the rice until it is partially cooked and packing it tightly into a rolled-up banana leaf. The leaf is secured with lidi semat, wooden needle made from the central rib of coconut leaf, and cooked in boiling water for about 90 minutes. Once the compacted rice has cooled, it can be cut up into bite-sized pieces. Outer parts of lontong usually have greenish color because of the chlorophyll left by banana leaf.
Alternative ways of cooking lontong include placing uncooked rice into a muslin bag then letting the water seep in and cause the rice to form a solid mass. Another popular method is by using commercially available rice-filled plastic pouches which are then boiled until the rice becomes cooked and have fully filled up the pouch. However this method is unhealthy and discouraged, since the heated plastic pouches could contaminated the compressed rice, plastics particles are known as carcinogenic. The use of organic banana leaf is safer and environmentally friendly.
Just like rice, the taste of lontong is bland and neutral, it is depends to other ingredients to gave taste through spices and sauces. Commonly, lontong serves as the compact alternative of steamed rice. It can be served with almost any traditional dish recipes as staple food, but mostly have peanut sauce or coconut milk-based soup.
In Indonesia, especially among Betawi people, lontong usually served as lontong sayur, pieces of lontong served in coconut milk soup with shredded chayote, tempeh, tofu, hard-boilled egg, sambal and kerupuk. Lontong sayur is a favourite breakfast menu next to bubur ayam and nasi goreng. Lontong kari is lontong serve in soupy chicken curry and vegetables.
The more elaborate recipe of lontong is Lontong Cap Go Meh, a peranakan Chinese Indonesian adaptation on traditional Indonesian dishes, lontong served with rich opor ayam, sayur lodeh, sambal goreng ati (beef liver in sambal), acar, telur pindang (hard boiled marble egg), abon (beef floss), and koya powder (mixture of soy and dried shrimp powder). Lontong Cap Go Meh usually consumed by Chinese Indonesian community during Cap go meh celebration.
Another lontong recipes are lontong kupang and lotong balap from Surabaya and Sidoarjo area in East Java. Lontong kupang is made of lontong with small white clams, while lontong balap is made from lontong, taoge (bean sprouts), fried tofu, lentho (fried mashed beans), fried shallots, sambal and sweet soy sauce.
In West Sumatra, a Minang dish from Padang Pariaman is called lontong gulai pakis, lontong served with young fern leaves gulai. Usually served with hard boiled eggs and kerupuk jangek or kerupuk kulit (cow skin crackers).
As a snack, a smaller size lontong is filled with diced vegetables, such as carrots, potato and common beans seasoned with salt and red chilli, or sometimes filled with abon (beef floss), or minced meat. This kind of snack is called arem-arem in Javanese, but commonly called simply as lontong in other parts of Indonesia. Usually the type of banana leaf used in lontong snack is the thin young banana leaf with yellowish color. The texture of lontong snack is usually softer compared to those of common lontong, due to thinner banana leaf and prolonged boiling period.
Malaysia and Singapore
The lontong rice cake is cut into smaller pieces, these rice cakes pieces are known as nasi himpit (compressed rice). The term lontong in Malaysia and Singapore usually refers a dish which consists of rice cakes in a coconut based soup such as sayur lodeh containing shrimp and vegetables like chopped cabbage, turnip and carrots. Additional condiments are added either during cooking or in individual servings. These include things such as fried tempeh, fried tofu, boiled eggs, dried cuttlefish sambal, fried spicy shredded coconut (serunding kelapa), fried chicken etc.