While some people make this using plain rice and no seasonings, my Lontong recipe is made by cooking jasmine rice with fragrant pandan leaves, aromatic lemongrass, and a dash of salt, infusing each grain with the bold, irresistible flavors of Southeast Asia. The cooked rice is then packed into banana leaves, creating compact, flavor-filled parcels that are simmered once again in hot water until they reach the perfect consistency.
The result is a delightful, compressed rice cake bursting with the exquisite flavors of pandan, and lemongrass, and made just slightly green on the outside from the oils of the banana leaves.
Enjoy fresh homemade lontong sliced in sayur lodeh, on mie goreng or bami goreng. It’s even awesome served alongside dishes from other Southeast Asian countries like ensaladang talong, or tofu sisig from the Philippines.
So join me on this culinary adventure, as we explore the art of making Lontong from scratch. With a few simple ingredients and a traditional Southeast Asian cooking method, you, too can create this timeless classic that will elevate your Malaysian and Indonesian dishes. Are you ready to take your taste buds on a journey they'll never forget? Darn tootin' you are. Let’s get started!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
👉More Flavorful and Fragrant: With a combination of pandan leaves, lemongrass, and jasmine rice, this recipe is infused with more flavor and aroma than most lontong recipes that use nothing but boring old white rice. That kind of lontong will only make your tastebuds cry with boredom!
👉Easy to Make: While Lontong might seem like a complicated dish, this recipe is quite simple and easy to follow, even for novice cooks.
👉Otherwise Hard to Find: In many parts of the world outside of Southeast Asia, pre-made Lontong is not readily available. By making it from scratch, you'll be able to enjoy this delicious dish no matter where you are.
👉Accessible to everyone: This recipe is 100% vegan and gluten-free and there is no added sugar.
✅Tested and Approved Worldwide: Like all the recipes on my blog, this lontong recipe has been meticulously fine-tuned not only by me but by a team of dedicated recipe testers around the world, including in Indonesia where the dish is from. No matter where you are on the planet, rest assured it's been tested to work everywhere!
🍃Notable ingredients for making lontong
(Nasi Wangi): This aromatic rice is commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine and has a fragrant, floral aroma. Any long-grain white rice can be substituted if Jasmine rice is not available. Aged basmati is a good substitute because it is also fragrant.
(Daun Pandan): These fragrant leaves are commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking to add a sweet, vanilla-like flavor and aroma to dishes (like kuih dadar and nasi uduk betawi). If fresh pandan leaves are not available, pandan extract can be used as a substitute.
(Sereh): This herb has a citrusy, lemony flavor and is commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine to add a zesty kick to dishes. If fresh lemongrass is not available, you can substitute it with dried lemongrass or lemon zest.
(Daun Pisang): This large, sturdy leaf is commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking to wrap food for steaming. It imparts a subtle, sweet flavor, and pretty green color to the steamed rice cakes. If you can’t find banana leaves, soaked corn husks (like what you might use for making tamales) aluminum foil with a layer of parchment inside of it can be used. Some people even make this dish using plastic, but I hate wasting plastic and am not a big fan of cooking directly in contact with it either.
See the recipe card at the bottom of this page for the complete list of ingredients and their quantities.
Here are a few traditional and untraditional variations you can mess around with:
- Coconut Milk: Some traditional Lontong recipes call for coconut milk as the liquid to initially cook the rice in. If you like, you can make my recipe for nasa uduk, and once it is cool, wrap it into the banana leaves and continue to cook as directed in this recipe.
- Vegetable Broth: Instead of using water for cooking the rice, you can substitute vegetable broth to add extra flavor and nutrition to the dish.
- Spices: Experiment with different spices to add extra flavor to the dish. Cumin, coriander, cardamom, and turmeric can all provide a delicious and unique twist to the recipe.
📖 How to make lontong like an expert:
You wanna see how these fragrant lil’ rice cakes get made? I will walk you through the whole process. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Prepare the pandan leaves and lemongrass by tying the pandan into a knot and smashing the lemongrass using a thick knife or meat tenderizer. This will help release their flavor into the rice when cooked.
Rice cooker method
You can cook the rice using a rice cooker if you prefer using the white rice setting.
Or, in a pot, bring the water, pandan leaves, lemongrass, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat.
Stir in the jasmine rice, ensuring it is fully submerged in the boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with a lid. Let the rice simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until it is fully cooked and the water has been absorbed.
Once cooked, remove the pandan leaves and lemongrass and let the rice cool for at least 20 minutes to make it easier to handle. I like to spread it out on a metal tray and toss it in my fridge or freezer to speed up the cooling.
Cut the banana leaves into six equal pieces, each about 8 inches by 14 inches (about 20 x 10 cm.). Rinse them with hot water to bring the oils to the surface and make them pliable, then pat them dry with a towel.
Lay one piece of banana leaf flat on a surface, with the shiny side facing up if you want more green coloring on your rice cakes, or facing down if you want less. Place a scoop of cooked rice, about ½ cup, in the center of the leaf.
Roll the leaf tightly around the rice filling with the ends open at first.
Fold the sides inwards to create a tightly sealed package. It is important water does not get into the parcel while it cooks, and there is no room for the rice to expand.
Pinch the corners inwards to prevent the folded ends from unfurling. Secure the package with twine or toothpicks. Repeat this process with the remaining banana leaves and cooked rice.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the wrapped rice packages, ensuring they are fully submerged in the water. Let them cook for one hour.
Alternatively, you can cook the parcels in a steamer over medium heat for 90 minutes. There is no opportunity for the lontong to become waterlogged and soggy, however often the rice will not merge fully into a totally solid form.
Remove the Lontong from the pot and allow them to cool in the refrigerator for at least 90 minutes before unwrapping. This will help them solidify fully.
Slice the Lontong with a sharp knife and serve with your favorite side dishes.
💡 Serving Ideas
🥞Think about serving martabak manis, thick Indonesian pancakes stuffed with chocolate and peanuts for dessert! If you want something lighter, check out these easy, healthy recipes for Che Ba, kuih dadar, and Banh Flan.
- Don’t worry, you can’t overcook the rice in the first cooking stage! Remember, the rice will continue to cook when you are steaming or boiling the wrapped longings. If the rice is slightly over or undercooked when you form it into the banana leaves, not won’t be a problem as long as you can still press the cooked handfuls of rice into a sausage-like shape.
- It is important to fully cool the Lontong in the refrigerator before unwrapping them to ensure they hold their shape.
- You can use leftover plain rice to make lontong! Simply mix in any desired aromatics, and wrap and steam.
Lontong can be stored in the bana leaves in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. It is also possible to freeze it for up to three months. However, it's important to note that the texture of the lontong may change after being refrigerated or frozen. When reheating, it's best to steam or microwave the lontong to maintain its texture.
💣 Bangin' dishes to serve with lontong:
❤️Love this recipe? It helps me out greatly if you leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟rating in the recipe card below and maybe even leave me a lovey-dovey comment too!
Lontong (Indonesian banana leaf compressed rice cake)
- Tie the pandan into a knot, and smash the section of lemongrass using the side of a thick knife or a meat tenderizer to help both herbs release their flavor into the rice when cooked
- In a pot, add the water, pandan leaves, lemongrass, and salt. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Add the jasmine rice to the pot, stir well, and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot with a lid and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and the water has been absorbed. Once cooked, remove the pandan leaves and lemongrass and let the rice cool for at least 20 minutes so that it is easy to handle.
- Cut the banana leaves into three equal-sized pieces, about 8 inches by 14 inches each. Rinse them with very hot water to bring the oils to the surface and make the leaves pliable and pat dry with a clean towel.
- Place one piece of banana leaf on a flat surface, with the shiny side facing up if you want more of the green coloring on your rice cakes, and down if you want less. Add a scoop of cooked rice (about 1 cup) to the center of the leaf. Fold the leaf in half to cover the rice, and then fold the sides inwards to create a sealed package. Secure the package with twine or toothpicks. Repeat this process with the remaining banana leaves and cooked rice. This will make six lontongs.
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add the wrapped rice packages to the pot, making sure they are fully submerged. Let them cook for one hour.
- Remove the Lontong from the pot and let them cool in your refrigerator for at least 90 minutes before unwrapping them. This will help them fully solidify.
- Cut the Lontong into small pieces and serve with your favorite side dishes.