Beef Rendang is Indonesia's most famous dish. It originated with the Minangkabau people from the Western Sumatra highlands, and from there it spread to other parts not only of Indonesia but of South East Asia - Malaysians consider it a national dish as well.
I first tried beef rendang decades ago at a restaurant in Bangkok. I had found Thai food too spicy for my taste - but this dish was on another level whatsoever. For years, I thought it was too spicy to eat again. However, I did find out that the versions of US restaurants were more edible, and when I made it myself I was able to skip the heat altogether. I didn't skip the flavor, however - this rendang was probably the tastiest I've ever had. If you want it spicier, increase the amount of sambal oelek or actually use seeded and chopped dried Thai chilies first soaked in warm water - the original recipe calls for a dozen.
This recipe will feed four people if served with rice and other sides, but it's too good to not have any leftovers - I recommend you double it.
For the spice paste
- 5 small shallots, halved
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
- 3 lemongrass, white parts only, cut into 2" pieces
- 1" ginger root, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
- 1" galangal root, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
- 1" turmeric root, peeled and cut into 4 pieces (optional)
- 1 tsp sambal oelek or to taste
For the rendang
- 2 tsp tamarind pulp or concentrate
- 3 Tbsp cooking oil
- 1 2" stick cinnamon
- 3 cloves
- 3 star anise
- 3 white cardamon pods
- 2 lbs beef chuck, cubed
- 1 lemongrass, white parts only, pounded and cut into pieces
- 1 15.5 oz can coconut milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 6 Tbsp kerisik or 1 cup packed unsweetened shredded coconut
- 6 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp palm or brown sugar
- salt to taste
Using a food processor or blender, process all the ingredients for the spice paste together and set aside.
Mix the tamarind pulp with a bit of water until fully dissolved, set aside.
Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the spice paste, cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise and cardamon pods and stir fry until fragrant. Add the beef and lemongrass and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, water and tamarind water and stir well. Bring temperature down to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, 5 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make kerisik by toasting the coconut in a wok over medium-low heat until golden brown. Transfer it to a mini-chopper or blender and process until you have a paste. Add a tablespoon of water if needed.
When the meat is almost cooked, add the kerisik, the kaffir lime leaves, sugar and salt and stir well.
Lower temperature to low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is tender and the sauce has cooked through. Taste and adjust salt and sugar. Serve with rice.
Adapted from Bee's recipe at Rasa Malaysia
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