Rice Dumplings: Thai "khao tom sam liap" versus Malay "ketupat palas".

All my life, I’d known this Malay rice dumpling called “ketupat palas” in Singapore and most parts of Malaysia, and “lepat kachang” in Malacca. Made from steamed glutinous rice and black-eyed beans, and enriched with coconut milk, I’d always thought it was unique, its weaving pattern originated by the ethnic Malays of Singapore and Malaysia, or so I thought.

So, imagine my surprise when I came across Thai “khao tom sam liap”, also known as “khanom khao tom” - made by Thais last week. These ones here were from a Bangkokian vendor, but one also finds these all over Thailand. Exactly the same weaving technique using blanched palm leaves.
But the Thai version is more elaborate: the glutinous rice dumplings have spiced chicken meat-floss and salted duck’s egg-yolk filling.

Absolutely bowled over by this Thai version - funny I’d never noticed it despite my dozens upon dozens of visits to Bangkok in the past 50 years. Checked with Thai friends and they said it’s always been there. Don’t ever miss this treat if you ever come across it the next time you’re in Thailand.


Phenomenal Photos Peter.
The weaving is beautiful and those Thai Dumplings look awesome.
Thank you for the Post.


The complexities of Thai food stun me. Then you add in Malay, Burmese, Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese and SE Asia has a nearly unending variety of dishes. I used to go to the little roadside curry places in southern Thailand (Chumphon, Hua Hin and Satun) and get one of those little plastic bags of curry plus a roll of sticky rice (if they had it) and take it back to my room. I do not think sticky rice is the right rice for curries but it worked for me.
Just watching the ladies fill the bags, spin them closed and band them for take away was an interesting thing to see in and of itself.

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One time when we were on a Flushing crawl, maybe the first one, there were a couple of ladies sitting at the next table who were wrapping zongzi — they were part of the wholesaler who supplier restaurants but had a small retail front in the food court. Such skill and speed.

The Nyonya Bak Zhang we ate a little while back were well-wrapped but not pretty like the ones you pictured.


I’ve tried to learn zongzi-wrapping, but have yet to master it!

Each dialect group in Singapore & Malaysia has its own distinct zongzi. My favorite is the Nyonya one by the Straits-born Chinese or Peranakans.