Thursday, December 01, 2011

beef rendang

First thing I have to say is that rendang is not Singaporean, it's not Malaysian, it is Indonesian, and to be very specific, it is from the Padang area of Sumatra. How do I know? Ask my born and bred Padang mum-in-law, who makes the best rendang I have tasted. Period. 

Still, we love it so much, we've embraced it completely and given it a special place in our hearts and bellies.  Today, I won't be sharing my mum-in-law's recipe with you (come on, are you kidding? Sure she loves me, but she don't love me that much)  but a scrumptious and simpler version I taught my 13 year-old boy to cook.

The only challenge that cooking this presents, to me at least, is reaching that state of rendang nirvana, where the chunks of beef are tender yet remain whole, and are so completety suffused with the intoxicating aroma of coconut and fragrant herbs, that breaking open a piece of meat is like smashing a bottle of perfume, only better!

Rendang is not usually cooked as an everyday sort of meal because there is no way around the patient, dedicated three hour simmering to be able to reach said state. Add to that, the rather complicated rempah (spice paste) which usually includes at least a dozen ingredients and you understand why when locals find a perfectly cooked rendang at a nasi padang (Indonesian rice and cooked food) stall, it's like finding a pot of gold; I know friends who keep such finds secret. Only a another Singaporean would understand....

The other alternative is to wait with crossed fingers, for a Hari Raya (Eid) invitation from Muslim friends, but oh, the agony of a year long wait! Fair warning - here's the recipe that will probably have you eating rendang a bit more often. Don't go crazy and land yourself in a cardiologist's  waiting room now. *yikes*

Prep 35 mins          Cook 3 1/2 hrs          Serves 6 - 8

Spice Paste

12 fresh red chillies, seeded and cut
3 large onions, peeled and cut
8 large cloves garlic, peeled 

4 stalks lemongrass, discard outer leaves, cut off top half and bash bottoms
3 cm length galangal (lengkuas or blue ginger) peel and bash
2 kgs boneless beef brisket, shin (shank) or silverside, cut into 4 cm chunks, thoroughly drained
500 ml (2 1/2 cups) coconut milk
1 L (5 cups) water
1 small slice tamarind (asam keping or asam gelugur)
8 large makrut or kaffir lime leaves (daun limau purut or daun jeruk)
1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp sugar

Combine chillies, onion and garlic and pound or process to a smooth paste.

Heat 6 tablespoons oil in a large pot or wok (easier to stir the rendang in) and fry the lemongrass and galangal for half a minute or until fragrant.

Add the spice paste and fry, stirring often, until fragrant and oil separates from the paste.

Add beef chunks and stir over high heat until evenly browned.

Pour in coconut milk and stir well. Bring to the boil and cook until coconut milk has reduced and oil seeps out. Add the water, stir and bring back to the boil.

Lower heat, add tamarind slice and lime leaves, cover pot or wok and simmer until meat is tender but not falling apart, and gravy is very thick and oily. Keep stirring and turning the beef chunks over to prevent burning, especially when the gravy starts to thicken and becomes oily.

Add salt and sugar and stir well. Turn off heat and dish out rendang. The beef should be tender yet in whole pieces and thickly coated with the rempah (spices) and oil.

Serve with white rice, nasi lemak (coconut rice), nasi minyak (ghee rice) or nasi kunyit (turmeric rice), serundeng (spicy grated coconut) and acar (pickle) or cucumber slices.

*just kidding mama - I know you love me, and don't worry, your recipe is safe with me ;) *


  1. Hey, Cik Puan! At the rate you are going, I will have to buy a ticket to visit my parents soon. I wonder if the kerisik and daun kunyit is a nyonya addition. Can you shed some light? Your version with asam gelugor and kaffir lime leaves is very interesting. I am trying to figure out the taste but I can imagine it must be delicious. It is probably a little tangy, right? I wish you are living next door to me now so that I can just hop over for a taste :)

  2. Kasihan lu!! I would definitely go over with a platter (serundeng, acar and all) if you were next door!

    The asam gelugur is my own addition as I find it cuts the richness of all that coconut milk a little and both my mum and MIL add kaffir lime leaves. Some people add even more coconut milk but I feel jelak quite easily so I am more restrained with the coconut. My version is not noticeably tangy in taste, but has a citrusy scent because of the generous use of lemongrass and lime leaves.

    My MIL does not use kerisik (traditional Indonesian versions don't include it) but in Singapore and Malaysia, it's a common ingredient - even my mum likes to add it, and turmeric leaf (daun kunyit)is not unique to the Peranakan version, as it is included in the Indonesian version, along with daun salam (Indonesian bay leaf) and lime leaves. If I told you anymore, I would be practically giving away my MIL's recipe ;)

    This version is pretty simple... I wonder if you would be able to get the ingredients (maybe not galangal?)in Minnesota...

  3. I do like the kerisik in rendang as it gives such good flavor. The kaffir lime leaves reminds me of my nyonya curry chicken. I will have to give it a try in beef rendang. Never you fear, I do have asam gelugor which I brought home in my last trip out there. I have not seen it here though. Believe or not, fresh galangal can be found at the Vietnamese stores. I buy and freeze them. That's also where I buy pandan leaves. Need to make that pandan cream pie again soon :)

  4. I did make coconut serunding here once from a cookbook and loved it. Generally, the Malays in Malaysia refer to serunding as beef serunding which is like a beef rendang cooked for almost an entire day to become meat floss. I got to eat that once a year during Hari Raya and it is really sedap! I say, all this talk about rendang is making my tummy growl.

  5. In Singapore, not many people know about serundeng daging (spicy beef floss) because it is so time consuming, you hardly see it done anymore, even in Malay homes. Serundeng here is generally understood to mean the spiced and seasoned toasted grated coconut sprinkled over the rice in my photos above. When I eat lontong lemak, I MUST have it sprinkled over, along with sambal. Or else, I will be frowing at my bowl of lontong, like :[

  6. Vintage Denise - a recipe that leaves me completely flummoxed, my head swimming with new words, my nose hungry for the associated smells and my mouth drooling. I can't even imagine what this tastes like, so maybe I'll just have to make it and find out! So glad to have you back, btw. Missed you!!!

  7. Ruby - I bet you say that to all the bloggers ;) Ok - note to self, subtitles a must, for all future posts! Aww... missed you too!

  8. Hey Denise, thks for the email invite! It's really great to hear from u, dear! I'm following u here & will follow everywhere u go. Hahaha!

    I've been looking for a nice Rendang recipe & this is just great. My family is a huge fan of Rendang but I've yet to make myself. I'm afraid the beef may not turn out as tender as I would like. Some Rendang are really tough at some eateries, so I'm not confident. Lol! Will KIV this definitely!

    Hey, I'm giving away SK-II products this X'mas! Why don't u hop over to SK-II Pitera™ Essence Set X’mas Giveaway! to take part. BTW, Anncoo won one of my 3 gift sets in my last Giveaways. U may be the one this time :)


  9. Hi Shirley :) Wonderful to see you! Thanks for accepting my invite, and I will definitely check out your giveaway very soon!

    I know what you mean about tough and chewy rendang *acckk* As long as you get the cuts of beef I recommend, don't stinge with the coconut milk (once in a while, indulge lah!) and simmer around 3 hours or so, I am pretty sure you will not be disappointed. This particular batch I made was tender right through and when I cut a piece open, it was so fragrant and moist inside, I actually sighed. Typical Singaporean mah! hahaha Food can make me so happy....

  10. A good beef rendang is really hard to find. Usually, the hawker stalls have the meat too tough and dry in the rendang.

  11. I love how you describe this dish and the flavours sound divine! Not familiar with most of spices but they sure sound wonderful!

  12. From the look, your rendang is very similar to Padang version which is drier! That is what I like :) Now All I need is nasi kapau or lontong sayur Padang.

    My version rendang is adding with turmeric leaves, star anise and asam kandis. Lots Sumatran and Manadonese (North Sulawesi) recipes like adding turmeric leaves.

    Based what I learnt from Minang (Padang) people, the variety of spices in the rendang are depends on where you grew up. People who live close by the ocean have added more variety of spice than people who live in the mountain area.

  13. Hi Pepy - my mum in law who is originally from Bukit Tinggi would be so happy to read your comment! And every Eid, I must have my bowl of lontong sayur lodeh with serundeng, paru goreng and rendang. Very bad for the heart and hips, but so good for the soul ;)

  14. Made this today. I was missing a lot of ingredients, like tamarind, kaffir lime leaves, galangal. But I used ground turmeric and lemon juice instead. I guess I don't know what I am missing, but this beef turned out delicious! And the best part is: I still have enough for one more serving!
    Thank you so much, Denise!

  15. my mom wants to learn how to make beef rendang so i've been trawling the web for simple recipes. thank you for yours, which has fewer ingredients than most others on the web, making it seem much more manageable. shall come back here to let you know how it turned out :)


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