Klepon: Glutinous Rice Balls with Palm Sugar Filling (Vegan)

A recipe for Klepon (ondeh-ondeh): a dessert of green glutinous rice flour dough balls, filled with palm sugar, coated in grated coconut.

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

Klepon is a glutinous rice ball with palm sugar filling, coated in grated coconut. The sticky, sweet and savoury ball originates in Indonesia and can be found in other neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. In Singapore and Malaysia, klepon is called ondeh-ondeh. It’s not to be confused with Indonesian onde-onde, because in Indonesia, onde-onde is a different kind of snack.

As one of the all time favourites jajanan pasar (market snacks), klepon became viral in Indonesia a few months back. An anonymous netizen had posted on social media that this traditional snack is not Islamic. This caused a lot of controversy and upset many people, because the statement touched upon a sensitive issue related to SARA, an Indonesian acronym for suku (ethnicity), agama (religion), ras (race) and antar golongan (between groups). Many people have voiced their opinion through social media and the topic received media coverage as well. Now, the humble klepon has risen in fame. 

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Symbolism in Klepon

Indonesia is a country with many traditions, and food plays an important part in rituals and ceremonies. Traditional food usually has a significant meaning or is symbolic. Klepon is no different. This small, cute, green, sticky ball coated with grated coconut symbolizes a lot of things, and teaches some moral lessons too:

  • Klepon is made from sticky rice. When cooked and put together, these little balls stick together. This symbolizes togetherness. That we should always stick to people we love.
  • Green is the color of life. It also symbolises welfare and fertility.  As long as we are alive, we should appreciate what is around us, cherish and love the people who are close and dear to us.
  • Klepon has a round shape. If we roll it, it will roll just like a ball. It’s a metaphor for life. Life is like a ball or a wheel. It sometimes rolls forwards, backwards, upwards, and downwards. But whatever it is, we should just keep moving forward.
  • Klepon is a symbol of simplicity. Most of the ingredients used to make klepon can be easily obtained (at least in Indonesia or Southeast Asia). It is also relatively easy to make, one doesn’t need to be an expert cook. 
  • Klepon might be simple, but it’s full of surprises. The sweet palm sugar filling oozes when its center is bitten, given a little surprise. This symbolizes kindness. Deep inside and unseen, yet sweet when revealed. 
  • Klepon is also a symbol of gentleness, resilience, forbearance, meticulousness and precision. When making klepon, one has to measure the ingredients precisely to achieve the desired soft but chewy texture. The dough has to be mixed gently, and the palm sugar placed  meticulously, and both need to be patiently rolled into a ball. This prevents it from breaking when it’s boiled. When all these techniques combine, delicious klepon is the reward! 
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Klepon: Glutinous Rice Balls with Palm Sugar Filling (Vegan)

Klepon: Glutinous Rice Dough Balls with Palm Sugar Filling (Vegan)

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Klepon, a popular snack, are little green balls made of glutinous rice flour, filled with palm sugar and coated in grated coconut. A delicious sweet treat, known as ondeh-ondeh in Singapore and Malaysia.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 200 gr glutinous rice flour
  • 1 tbsp tapioca flour
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 160 ml hot water
  • 3 drops green food colouring
  • 50 gr palm sugar, finely shaved
  • Water for boiling
  • 2 pandan leaves

Instructions

  1. Mix the grated coconut with ¼ tsp salt, and then steam for about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Using a spoon, mix well: the glutinous flour, tapioca flour and ¼ tsp salt, in a bowl.
  3. Add the green food colouring to the hot water, mix well.
  4. Add the hot water (which should now be green) to the flour mixture little by little while mixing it with a tablespoon. Make sure not to add too much water to avoid watery dough.Add the hot green water to the flour little by little
  5. Knead the dough using your hand until the dough is smooth and there are no more sticky bits of flour.Continue to knead the dough
  6. Take a little bit of the dough and roll it to form a small ball, then press into it using your thumb. Add the palm sugar and then close it tightly. Roll it again into a smooth ball. You’re done with one ball – now set it aside.
    Add the palm sugar into the dough
  7. Roll several such more balls until you’ve used up all the dough and the palm sugar.
  8. Fill a cooking pan with water and add the pandan leaves. Bring to a boil.Fill a cooking pan with water and add the pandan leaves
  9. Add all the balls and cook until they float (around 8 minutes).
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    Add all the balls and cook until they float
  10. When they float, continue cooking for around 3 minutes so that the sugar melts.
  11. Drain the balls until there’s no more water dripping.Drain the balls until there’s no more water dripping.
  12. Roll the balls in the grated coconut to coat them.Roll the balls into the grated coconut.
  13. Transfer the balls to a serving plate.

Notes

  • Finely shave the palm sugar so it won’t break the dough when it’s boiled and the sugar will nicely melt.
  • Make sure to close the dough securely to avoid breaking it up.
  • Steaming grated coconut is optional, and allows you to keep the klepon without the coconut  getting rancid. However, if the klepon is going to be consumed immediately, fresh coconut tastes much better.

Keywords: Ondeh-Ondeh, Gula Melaka, Gula Jawa, sweet

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