Beef rendang is one of Indonesia’s signature dishes. It’s meltingly tender dry beef curry that is slow-cooked in coconut milk with fragrant spices and herbs.
A national dish
Beef rendang is Indonesian beef curry cooked in spiced coconut milk until all the liquid evaporates leaving the meat taste rich and delicious. It is one very famous dish that originated in West Sumatra, Indonesia that has now reached all over the country and beyond.
If you go to Indonesia, you can always find an eating place that serves this dish on their menu literally in any region/ province across the country.
Traditionally, the Sumatran cook this flavoursome dried beef curry as the signature dish for the festive seasons such as Eid al Adha and Eid al Fitr. Or for celebratory occasions such as weddings, or community events. But nowadays, people make the dish whenever they like as a part of the home food menu.
Just like any food recipe, there are hundreds if not thousands of beef rendang recipes. After tasting numerous ones, I’m confident enough to say that the recipe I’m sharing here offers the best flavour of beef rendang.
It’s a family recipe that my mom shared with me. Now, I want to share it with you.
Types of rendang
There are two types of rendang: one with gravy and the other one without. This difference is achieved according to the length of cooking time.
The longer you cook it, the thicker and drier the gravy becomes as it evaporates. And the richer and more intense the flavour you get.
The one without gravy will turn into very dark brown in colour, almost as black. Therefore it is called rendang hitam which means black rendang. And this one is the real deal of rendang.
And the one with the gravy has a consistency like a curry but is thicker and more luscious.
Just like most dishes from the Sumatra region, rendang is cooked in coconut milk with spices and herbs that give an irresistible aroma and flavour. And the hint of sweetness from caramelised coconut milk makes the dish ever so moreish.
You can also use lamb or goat meat or chicken for rendang. If you use lamb or goat meat, you can cook exactly the same way as you cook with beef.
When you use chicken, you would want to cut down the coconut milk to half. And you may have to cook it half time and leave it with the gravy as it will break the chicken to pieces if you cook it too long.
You don’t need anything else to enjoy this dish. Just hot plain white rice will do.
And it is actually quite simple to make this flavourful dish. Although it takes a bit of time to cook it.
The key ingredients
In short, you only need four things to make this delicious dry beef curry. They are beef, spices, herbs and coconut milk.
Contrary to what some recipes suggest, to make the best rendang you need good quality and fat-free beef meat. Beef chunks of topside, shin, or brisket are the popular option for the dish.
Because of its long slow-cooking process, even the hard beef shin will become meltingly tender.
As for the spices, you need ground cumin, ground coriander, chillies, and galangal.
Note that in Indonesia, people use fresh red chillies and fresh galangal roots.
But to simplify and make things more practical, I use the dried red chilli powder (Kashmiri red chilli powder is my favourite because of its colour and flavour).
And you can also use the dried galangal root or the ready-pasted in a jar. They are good alternatives.
Now, for herbs, you will need ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and turmeric leaf. It may be tricky and hard to get the latter. Because turmeric leaf is not available at the regular Asian shops or at Chinatown.
So you may have to look and order online. But if you find it impossible to get it, I would say that you still can make mouthwatering beef rendang without it. So don’t worry about it.
Last but not least, you need coconut milk to make rendang. It is the number one ingredient that gives the meat-rich flavour. Make sure you choose good quality coconut milk. And even better if you make it yourself.
How to make Indonesian Beef Rendang
Firstly, you make the spice paste by grinding the onions, chillies, ginger, galangal, cumin, and coriander into a paste using a pestle and mortar or a food processor/ blender. Then, place the beef chunks, the spice paste and the rest of the ingredients in a large cooking pan. Give it a good stir and start cooking at medium-high heat. You can put the lid on to quicken the process.
Continue cooking until the liquid (coconut milk and meat juice) starts to boil. Then turn the heat down and cook further at low heat with the lid on.
Take care and keep checking every now and again. Make sure you stir it every so often to prevent it from getting burned at the bottom of the pan.
After about an hour, the curry gravy should get thickened and look shiny thanks to the coconut milk. And the meat should be fully cooked and quite tender. At this point, you can stop cooking and enjoy it with a little bit of gravy, if you like.
If you want a proper dry-ish black rendang, keep cooking at low heat with the lid on until the gravy evaporates and turns caramelised. Don’t forget to keep turning and stirring. Especially when the liquid starts to dry up.
Ways to enjoy
You can simply enjoy this Indonesian beef rendang with hot plain rice. But people have it with hard-boiled rice called lontong when they have it as a part of Eid’s celebration menu. You can check my post on how to make lontong.
Usually, they would have the dish with similarly spicy dishes such as Balado kentang (potato cooked in spicy chilli paste), sayur nangka (jackfruit cooked in spicy coconut milk), and sambal ijo (green chillies cooked with onions and green tomatoes).
How to store
In the old days, the beef rendang was made as a way to preserve the meat. Because there was no refrigerator then.
Therefore, you can keep your dried beef curry in a tight lid container and store it in the fridge/ refrigerator for about 3-4 weeks.
And if you want, you can also freeze it and keep it for 2 months. The best way is to put the meat in a food container or vacuumed the food bag according to portions. And when you need it, you can just take the amount you like.
Recipes that go well with beef rendang
Thank you for checking out my beef rendang recipe. I hope you like it and will want to try it. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below, I will really appreciate it.
Before you go, don’t forget to check my other recipes that you’ll equally love:
- The best Indonesian sweet soy chicken – ayam kecap.
- Indonesian fried chicken – Ayam Goreng Bumbu.
- Lontong Sayur Betawi – vegetable curry with hard-boiled rice cakes.
- Opor Ayam: chicken stew in spiced coconut milk.
Thank you and all the best.
Beef rendang is an Indonesian dry curry that is made with good-quality beef meat and cooked in spicy aromatic coconut milk. It has spicy chilli heat with a hint of sweetness from the caramelised coconut milk.
Yes, it can be spicy. The traditional rendang will look very dark that it’s almost black and has a bit of fiery chilli heat.
It is originally from West Sumatra, Indonesia.
You just have to cook it longer. The longer you cook it, the thicker and drier the gravy becomes as it evaporates.
Yes, you can also freeze beef rendang and keep it for 2 months. The best way is to put the meat in a food container or vacuumed the food bag according to portions. And when you need it, you can just take the amount you like.