One of Indonesia’s renowned and universally popular beef dishes is beef rendang, a slow-cooked dry curry deeply spiced with ginger and turmeric, kaffir lime and chilis. You’ll also find chicken, vegetable, and seafood rendang as well. It is also very popular in nearby Malaysia. When prepared in Malaysian style, there are sweet, sour, and savory elements, and the curry is infused with a coconut richness, combined with a slight tanginess from asam keping (slivers of a sour sun-dried fruit).
There are two givens; if it has a sauce, its not Rendang, and Rendang always tastes better the folowing day. It was originally a technique for preserving meat prior to the era of refrigeration. When farmers killed and butchered cattle on special occasions, some portions of it were made into Rendang. The spiciness is no accident as chili oil has antimicrobial properties. By cooking until dry, the low moisture content and relatively high fat content enabled beef to last for weeks in the tropical heat and humidity.
Overall, there’s a significant list of ingredients, but that’s coupled with a very easy cooking procedure:
- Chop up chilis and aromatics and blend into a paste
- Pour that paste into a pot along with coconut milk and beef; and cook
- The liquid reduces down and coconut oils emerge from the milk, so that by the end, the meat is essentially frying in that flavor-laden oil.
It’s not a quick dish, but the flavors build and combine to make the lengthy cooking time well worth every minute!
Authentic Malaysian-style Rendang is a spicy meat dish which has evolved among the Minangkabau ethnic group of Malaysia, but is now commonly served throughout the country. Characteristic of the Minangkabau cuisine, it is invariably served at festive and ceremonial occasions, wedding feasts and Hari Raya. Culinary sources describe rendang as “West Sumatran caramelised beef curry”. Rendang is a favourite throughout the Malay communities of Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Southern Philippines.
- Spice Paste:
- 3/4 cup grated coconut
- 15 dried chilies
- 10 shallots, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 inch ginger (20 g), sliced
- 1 inch galangal (20 g), sliced
- 1 inch turmeric (10 g), sliced
- 2 stalks lemon grass, sliced
- 4-6 bird chilies, optional
- 1 pound lean beef, sliced into 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup water
- 1 turmeric leaf, tied into knot (can be omitted)
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1-2 pieces asam keping (slices of sun-dried fruit)
- Add the coconut into a wok over medium heat and dry-fry until golden brown.
- Cool slightly before grinding finely in mortar and pestle, or in food processor.
- Chop the chili into 1 inch sections and soak in hot water until softened.
- Discard half the seeds and place the chilies in electric blender jug with shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, turmeric and lemon grass.
- Add 1/2 cup water and grind to a medium paste
- Place the spice paste, beef, coconut milk, and water in a big wok.
- Bring to a boil and simmer on medium heat, stirring now and then until mixture is well reduced. It should be thick and the oil has surfaced – approximately 45 minutes.
- Add the ground toasted coconut, turmeric leaf, torn up kaffir lime leaf, salt, sugar, and asam keping
- Cook another 5-10 minutes, taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary.
- Take pan off heat.
Serve with rice…