Beef Rendang

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I came across this recipe approximately five or six years ago on a Geocities website. Although I have made this dish based on the original recipe before and it turned out great, I have since then tweaked and refined it a little because I felt there were too many variables to begin with to come up with a consistent result every time. The foundation of the recipe is still the same and I would love to give credit to the original writer of the recipe but unfortunately, I could not find the website anymore. Hence, I will also include the original recipe here as it is was written when I first saw it years ago.

Before my encounter with this recipe, I had never cooked rendang before . When I was growing up, the only time I got to eat this deliciously rich, spicy dish was during Hari Raya when my family attended our Malay friends’ open house. I was not sure if this recipe would produce the Malay rendang that I am familiar with because as with every dish, there are always so many different variations available. I gave it a try and was immensely pleased to find that it is what I had been looking for. Yes!

The only downside to making the rendang is the long hours one has to slave on it. The recipe itself is simple, provided you can find the ingredients (which for the longest time I could not) but the preparation is so extremely long. The rendang requires 2 to 3 hours of slow simmering and constant stirring to prevent the curry from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. This is in addition to the time one spends peeling and trimming the aromatics. I am not complaining really…okay, maybe just a little :D but the end result is well worth the effort. To streamline the process of making rendang, you could always make several batches of the pureed aromatics and freeze them. This way, you would not have to spend time doing the tedious task of preparing them the next time you want to make it.

My usual accompaniments for this dish are nasi lemak and yogurt dill cucumber salad. I strongly recommend that if you have spent the time and effort preparing the rendang, to spend a little bit more making nasi lemak to go with it. There is a reason why traditionally, nasi lemak is often served together with rendang – they complement each other so well that it is almost a crime to eat one without the other. In addition, I have also included a non-customary side dish – yogurt dill cucumber salad. I wanted something simple to tame the heat of the rendang. With their cooling quality, cucumber and yogurt make a good pair in reducing the fieriness of the curry, without masking or changing the original taste of the rendang. I add dill to the salad simply to provide another dimension of flavor to the dish. In order to prevent the salad from turning into a watery mess before you eat it, make only enough for just one meal and do not mix the yogurt and cucumber together until shortly before serving. I would recommend something simple such as slices of cool, refreshing watermelon to round out the meal.

I just cannot rave enough about the rendang. It is absolutely delicious and addictive from the beginning to the end and just when you think that it cannot taste any better than it already does, it will continue to prove you wrong again and again. Enjoy!

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Note: Do not worry too much about the exact weight of the aromatics. The recipe is actually very forgiving. I weighed the aromatics because they vary in sizes so much, that I thought maybe knowing the weight would ensure a more consistent result each time. However, even without knowing the actual weight of the ingredients, I manage to pretty much get a consistent mouth-watering result anyway.

3½ to 4 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes*
15 (about 9½ ounces) fresh red chiles, 7½ ounces trimmed
20 (about 20 ounces) shallots, 15 ounces trimmed
½-inch galangal or ginger, ¼ ounce trimmed
5 lemon grass, 2½ ounces trimmed
13.5 fluid ounces first pressing/unsweetened coconut milk (1 can)
3 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ cup vegetable oil

*To make chicken rendang, I use 4 to 4½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 12 pieces), kept whole

  1. Place chiles, shallots, galangal or ginger, and lemon grass in work bowl of food processor; process until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrape down sides of bowl.
  2. Heat oil in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. Add processed mixture, cook, stirring frequently until fragrant, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high, add beef, and cook, stirring to coat with the aromatics, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add coconut milk, stir to mix, and bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally and more frequently towards the end to prevent the curry from sticking and burning. Cook until beef is tender and almost all liquid has evaporated, usually 2 hours but may take up to 3 hours depending on the liquid content of the ingredients. Curry should be thick and oil has separated from the mixture. (Please note that once oil has separated from the mixture, the curry is basically done and even if there is still a generous amount of liquid left that forms a thick gravy, you can choose to stop reducing the curry any further. The flavor at that point should be concentrated enough to taste like an authentic rendang and in addition, you will actually have rendang gravy to slather on your nasi lemak. :-D)
  5. Add tamarind concentrate, salt, and turmeric powder and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
  6. Let curry stand for at least ½ hour to 1 hour before serving the very first time to allow flavors to meld. Serve hot/warm. Curry can be refrigerated for several days and flavor appears to get better with time.

Yogurt Cucumber Dill Salad

Plain low-fat yogurt
Minced fresh dill or dried dill weed
English cucumbers, sliced thinly

Combine yogurt, and dill. Add cucumbers; toss to coat. Serve chilled. I did not give any measurements on these 3 ingredients because it is truly based on your preferences. Start with a ½ cup of yogurt and 2 teaspoons of dill per cucumber, and adjust the ingredients as preferred.

Please note that I have posted the original recipe below as I could not find the website anymore to link it to.

Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking: 2 hours
Serves: 6 to 8 people

1¼ pounds (650 g) stewing beef
15 dried or fresh large chillies
20 shallots
½ inch (1¼ cm) galingale
5 lemon grass
2 grated coconuts (4 cups of coconut milk)
3 pieces assam gelugor
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1 turmeric leaf (½ teaspoon turmeric powder)
½ cup cooking oil

  1. Cut beef into ½ inch cubes.
  2. Grind together chillies, shallots, galingale and lemon grass.
  3. Heat oil and fry ground ingredients for 5 mins (or until fragrant).
  4. Add beef and fry with ground ingredients for 3 mins.
  5. Add coconut milk and simmer until beef is tender (45 to 60 mins).
  6. When beef is almost done, add the assam gelugor, turmeric and salt.
  7. Continue to cook, stirring all the time to prevent the curry from burning.
  8. Serve.
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4 Replies to “Beef Rendang”

  1. […] ← Beef Rendang Hot and Spicy Chex Party Mix […]

  2. I agree with you abt the many variations of the rendang recipes. It’s best to get the recipe from a Malay or Indonesian. I’ve made mine initially without the turmeric leaves and found it was not quite there. The thinly sliced turmeric leaves (daun kunyit) is the trick to an authentic rendang recipe. Note the turmeric leaves do not have the same taste as the turmeric root/ powder. I used the root in the blended paste, while the leaves are sliced thinly, sprinkled and stirred in the rendang. Unfortunately, it’s so difficult to get turmeric leaves that I often ended using kaffir lime leaves. My mum never omits the turmeric leaves and the kerisik and her rendang tastes very authentic, hence I mentioned those 2 items as being the secret ingredients to a very good tasting rendang :-D
    BTW asam gelugor is a substitute to tamarind juice and yes, it must be concentrated. I love your side dish of yoghurt cucumber dill salad. Sounds very refreshing indeed. Gotta try that out, for sure… cheers xxx

    1. Not sure I’ve ever seen turmeric leaves here…can’t find kaffir lime leaves either. Now, I’m really curious as to how these ingredients will affect the taste of rendang. Somedays, I wish I live in NYC or LA of SF…will probably have no trouble finding these ingredients. Most of the time, I can’t even find fresh chillies. :P

  3. […] Recipe for the rendang can be found in a previously published post – Beef Rendang. I used green serrano peppers in this batch of rendang. If you use red chiles, the end result for […]

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