When my husband thinks of the Malaysian food he enjoys, Beef Rendang is one of the dishes that immediately comes to mind. As Chef Saadiah of Lazat (the cooking school he attended while in Southeast Asia) explained, because of the long cooking time and special ingredients needed, this traditional dish is reserved for celebrations and holidays.
Chef’s Note: Keep in mind that some of the ingredients listed here may be hard to find in the United States. We have done our best give some tips and useful substations, where appropriate.
See below for the full recipe, along with another dish that complements the beef nicely.
About Southeast Asia’s Beef Rendang
Wikipedia provides a bit more detail about this Malaysian food:
“Rendang is a spicy meat dish which originated from the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia, and is now commonly served across the country. One of the characteristic foods of Minangkabau culture, it is served to honor guests. Rendang is also commonly served among the Malay community in Malaysia, and is popular in Singapore, Brunei, the southern Philippines and southern Thailand. Rendang is traditionally prepared by the Indonesian and Malaysian community during festive occasions such as traditional ceremonies, wedding feasts, and Hari Raya (Eid al-Fitr). Culinary experts often describe rendang as: ‘West Sumatran caramelized beef curry'”
How to Cook Beef Rendang
Here’s my take on Beef Rendang. In addition to a few details and substitutes for some of Southeast Asia’s common ingredients that are more difficult to find in the United States, I prefer to let my Crock Pot do most of the work (whereas my husband doesn’t mind spending the day in the kitchen while watching the latest sporting event). The recipe below will serve 4 when served with rice and other sides.
- 680 g (1 ½ lb.) beef (anything from stew meat to sirloin can be used, but increase cooking time with tougher cuts of meat), cut into 1 in. cubes
- 3 Tbsp. oil
- 475 ml (16 oz.) water or just enough to cover meat
- 400 ml (13.5 oz.) coconut milk (1 can)
- 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
- 2 cm (1 in.) galangal, bruised (leave out if unavailable)
- 1 turmeric leaf (finely sliced, chiffonade) (substitute: leave out and add 1 additional kafir lime leaf)
- 1 kafir lime leaf
- 2 small pieces asam keping, minced (substitute: 2 Tbsp. Tamarind Water)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 2 Tbsp. kerisik (fresh grated coconut), recipe in method below
Beef Rendang Spice Paste Ingredients:
- 8-10 dried chilies (I used Puya’s as they are readily available in the Mexican market, but any medium sized dried chili would do), deseeded and soaked in warm water for 30 min.
- 2 stalks lemongrass, sliced
- 4 large shallots, peeled and quartered
- 3 garlic cloves, halved
- 1 ½ in. ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 in. fresh turmeric, chopped
- 3-4 fresh red chilies (Thai or Arbol), chopped
- In a mortar and pestle, grind all the spice paste ingredients into a paste (see Chef’s tip below).
- Heat oil over low heat in large skillet. Add bruised lemongrass and galangal, stirring until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
- Add the spice mixture, stirring occasionally until oil is released (about 5 minutes).
- Add beef and water. Bring to a boil.
- Transfer to a Crock Pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours or until the beef is tender (if not using turmeric leaf, add 1 kifer lime leaf here.
- Remove the beef. Transfer liquid to a skillet and reduce until sauce thickens (about 15 minutes).
- Add coconut milk, salt, sugar, asam keping and sliced turmeric leaves and simmer until sauce thickens (the traditional method is to reduce to a very thick paste, almost dry, but if you like a little more sauce, stop earlier).
- Finally, add kafir lime leaf and kerisik, stir and mix well for 2-3 minutes before removing from heat. Serve with rice.
Chef’s Tip: For the spice paste, a small food processor or chopper makes fast work of this and results in a few less tears!
Kerisik Method: (see Chef’s tip below):
- Dry fry the grated coconut over low heat, stirring constantly until golden brown and crisp.
- While still hot, remove mixture to mortar and pestle and grind to a fine texture and until oil starts to release.
Chef’s Tip: This part of the recipe takes time. I recommend extracting the flesh of the coconut and then grating it as I did instead of starting with a fresh coconut. Start with freshly grated coconut (not dried). You should be able to find this at organic stores like New Leaf Market or Whole Foods. To get 2 Tbsp. of paste you’ll need about ¾ to 1 cup of grated coconut, or about ½ of a fresh coconut.
Download and print the recipe here.
Acar Timun/Spicy Cooked Cucumber Salad Recipe
The next dish adds a little lightness to Southeast Asia’s Beef Rendang. It is a nice ‘cooked’ salad and the ingredients are a bit easier to find than those needed for other types of Malaysian food! It serves 4.
- 120 g (4 oz. or about two 3 in. sections) cucumber (English cucumber works well here)
- 60 g (2 oz. or about two 3 in. long) carrot
- 1 small green jalapeño chili, seeded and thinly sliced, then halved
- 1 small red fresno chilie, seeded and thinly sliced, then halved
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2-3 medium shallots, whole
- 1 Tbsp. oil
- 1 tsp. brown or black mustard seeds
- 1 star anise
- 2 cloves
- 4 cm (2 in.) cinnamon stick
- 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. vinegar
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Salad Spice Paste Ingredients:
- 1 in. ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 shallots, roughly chopped
- 5 small dried shrimp, soaked in warm water for 10 min. to soften (find it in the refrigerated section of an Asian market)
- In a mortar and pestle (or small food chopper), grind all the spice paste ingredients into a smooth paste.
- Cut the cucumber (seeds removed) and carrots into long slices.
- In a frying pan or wok, heat the oil over low heat and fry the mustard seeds, star anise, cinnamon stick and cloves for a few seconds (cover it or you’ll have mustard seeds all over your kitchen).
- Add the pounded paste and turmeric powder and stir until fragrant.
- Add the sugar, vinegar and salt and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the carrot, whole garlic and shallots and stir fry for 3-4 minutes.
- Finally, add the cucumber and green and red chilies for 1-2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and garish with toasted sesame seeds.
Download and print the recipe here.
I hope you enjoy trying this Malaysian food at home, and next time you visit, don’t miss Lazat for an authentic cooking experience. What’s your favorite type of cuisine from Southeast Asia?
Mary Hathaway, Owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the recipes are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: Dinner-Diva.com for more info.