Indonesian beef rendang recipe is what you want to try for an authentic taste of rendang. And the best one is the recipe rooted in Padangnese (West Sumatran) cuisine. Because it’s where the rendang is from.
The real beef rendang is good-quality beef meat cooked in spicy coconut milk with a rich aromatic flavour and a hint of sweetness from the caramelised coconut. Traditional Padangnese rendang will look very dark that it’s almost black and has a bit of fiery chilli heat.
Beef rendang has become popular all over Indonesia (and beyond). It’s now considered as one of the national foods in Indonesia. The others are Gado-Gado, nasi goreng, Sate Ayam/ Sate Kambing, and Soto.
If you go to Indonesia, you can always find an eating place that does rendang literally in any region/ provinces across Indonesia.
Traditionally, the Padangnese cook rendang 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 rendangs whenever they like.
Just like any food recipe, there are hundreds if not thousands of beef rendang recipes. But after tasting numerous rendang all my life, 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. And now, I want to share it with you, so that you’ll know the real Indonesian beef rendang flavour.
Types of rendang
Just like most dishes from Sumatra, rendang is cooked in coconut milk with spices and herbs that give a rich aromatic flavour.
It is actually quite simple to make rendang, though it takes a lot of time to cook. You only need good-quality ingredients and patience. Hah. Yeah, that’s because it takes a bit of time to cook the curry and turn into proper rendang.
There are two types of rendang: one with gravy and the other one is 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 that means black rendang. And this black rendang is the real deal of rendang.
And rendang with the gravy is like a curry but thicker and more luscious.
The key ingredients
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. And the spicy coconut milk will make the meat deliciously juicy.
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 the beef rendang.
As for the chicken rendang, 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.
The spices you need to make Indonesian beef rendang are ground cumin, ground coriander, chillies, and galangal.
Note that in Indonesia, people use fresh red chillies and fresh galangal root.
But to simplify and make things more practical, I use the dried red chilli powder. And you can use the dried galangal root or the ready-pasted in a jar. I have cooked with these alternatives, the results were the same. The rendang tasted equally delicious.
As for herbs, you will need ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and turmeric leaf.
Now, for the latter one, it may be tricky and hard to get. Because it is not available at the regular Asian shops or at Chinatown.
So you may have to order online. But please try your best to get hold of this uniquely fragrant leaf. And if you can only find the one in powder form, make sure it’s Turmeric leaf powder. You can put ½ teaspoon of turmeric leaf powder for this recipe.
However, if you find it impossible to get it, I would say that you still can make good beef rendang. Although the aroma may slightly be different.
Perhaps I should put this coconut milk as the number two ingredient after the meat. Because without coconut milk, your rendang will not be rendang. But then again, without the right spices and herbs, the case will be the same too.
So yeah, coconut milk is definitely a must. You can make your own coconut milk like the olden days. If you want to, here is how to make your own coconut milk:
- Finely grate one coconut using a food grater or food processor.
- Put ½ cup of water in the coconut, using your hand, try to mix and squeeze the coconut and the water until you can see the liquid looks white and creamy. The first water you put in the coconut is the one that can give you the thickest and richest milk. So you would want to mix and squeeze for a bit.
- Then squeeze the grated coconut over a sieve with a bowl underneath for the coconut milk. Do so until all the liquid has pretty much gone from the coconut.
- When the coconut feels dry, repeat the steps 2 and 3 for three times.
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) is boiling. 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 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 cooked and quite tender. At this point, you can stop cooking and enjoy the rendang with gravy, if you like.
If you want a proper dry-ish black rendang, keep cooking in low heat with the lid on. And keep stirring the curry every so often until the gravy loses it’s liquid and turns caramelised dry.
Ways to enjoy Beef Rendang
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 this rendang as a part of Eid’s celebration menu. You can check here to learn how to make lontong.
Usually, they would have it 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).
I personally love this rendang with Balado kentang and green bean stir-fry. It’s kind of a combined menu between my Sumatran dad’s and my West Javanese mom’s.
How to store
If you slow-cook your beef rendang properly at low heat and let it dry and turn dark/ black, you can keep the leftover dish at a cool room temperature for weeks. Because in the old days, rendang was a way to preserve the meat. And there was no refrigerator then.
Now you can keep the rendang 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 beef rendang and keep it for 2 months. The best way is to put the meat in a food container or vacuumed food bag according to portions. And when you need it, you can just take the amount you like.
I hope you enjoyed the post and like this recipe, feel free to share the post and pin it. And do follow me on Instagram and Pinterest @soyummyrecipesbydevy to sneak peek what’s cooking in my kitchen. Also, 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.
- Gado-gado Jakarta.
- Mie Goreng – Indonesian stir-fried noodles.
- Indonesian sweetcorn fritters – perkedel jagung.
- Indonesian Mung bean fritters – perkedel kacang hijau.
Thank you and all the best.
Beef rendang is 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 food bag according to portions. And when you need it, you can just take the amount you like.