Authentic Indonesian beef rendang recipe

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Beef rendang

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 with an overlay text of "Indonesian Beef Rendang"

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

Ingredients of beef rendang

Beef

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. 

Spices

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. 

bowls of spices

Herbs

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. 

Coconut milk

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:

  1. Finely grate one coconut using a food grater or food processor.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

raw beef, spices and herbs in a pot
raw beef covered with spices and herbs for rendang

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. 

meat cooked in spices
beef cooked in spices and coconut milk to make rendang

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.

beef rendang with gravy
Beef rendang with gravy
beef rendang without sauce
Beef rendang without gravy

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.

Yield: 10

Indonesian Beef Rendang

Indonesian beef rendang

This Indonesian beef rendang recipe is 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.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 800 grams/ 28.2 oz of boneless beef, cut in chunks.
  • 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped.
  • 2 Tsp of ground cumin.
  • 2 Tsp of ground coriander.
  • 1 Inch of galangal.
  • 1 inch of ginger.
  • 1 ½ Tsp of chilli powder, or 10-15 fresh red chillies (see the note)
  • 1 Lemongrass.
  • ½ turmeric leaf (optional).
  • 5 Kaffir lime leaves.
  • 2 Cans of good quality coconut milk (400 ml. each).
  • 1-2 Tsp of salt, according to taste.

Instructions

  1. Using pestle and mortar, pound and grind the onions, galangal, ginger, and fresh chillies (if using) into a paste. You can also use a food processor to make this paste. Just put the onion, galangal, ginger, and chillies in the food processor. Then give it a blitz until all the become a thick paste.
  2. Put the meat in a big wok, add in the spices and herbs paste, the cumin, coriander, lemongrass, turmeric leaf, kaffir lime leaves, and salt. 
  3. Stir until all the meat pieces are covered with spices. Put the lid on and cook at medium heat. Keep checking and stirring every now and again.
  4. After about 20-30 minutes when the meat looks cooked, add in the coconut milk. Stir and cook further with the lid on at medium heat until the milk reaches boiling point, then turn the heat to low. Don't forget to always keep checking and stirring.
  5. Rendang should be ready within a few hours. But at this point, the rendang will have quite a bit of gravy. You can enjoy it if you want to.
  6. If you like to have a proper Rendang Hitam (black rendang), you have to cook longer for at least another hour. Cook the rendang until all the gravy evaporates. Take care not to let it stick to the wok, or worse, to burn. Keep checking and stirring.
  7. When all the sauce is gone, and the rendang turns dark brown, you can switch the heat off. Your black rendang/ rendang hitam is ready.

Notes

  • If you use beef, you can either choose topside, shin, or brisket. Cut the meat in 2 inches cubes, and pierce each piece with skewers or a fork for a few times. I promise this little thing will make your rendang tastier. 
  • You can use fresh red chillies, but make sure they’re grounded into a fine paste together with other herbs and spices. But really, I’ve tried using both fresh and dried chillies with the same result, which is yummy rendang. So, don’t fret if you can’t get fresh ones. Don’t worry, you can just use chilli powder.
  • When it comes to chillies, you can always improvise according to your taste. Although the original rendang is quite hot due to a large number of chillies, in this recipe I only put a “moderate” amount of chillies. So, I suggest you put this moderate amount of chilli at the beginning, then put some more after you tasted your rendang half-way through your cooking. 
  • If you use fresh lemongrass, cut it in one-inch length pieces so that we can get the most of its flavour. If you use lemongrass paste, you can put just a little less than one teaspoon of it. But please please don’t use the lemongrass powder. They’re useless.
  • As for Turmeric leaf, I did put it as optional, but I strongly suggest you try your best to get it. If you can only get the powder form, put 1 teaspoon of it.

Nutrition Information

Yield

10

Serving Size

1
Amount Per Serving Calories 390Total Fat 28gSaturated Fat 15gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 87mgSodium 538mgCarbohydrates 6gFiber 1gSugar 1gProtein 28g

The nutrition calculation you find here is just a guide provided by online nutrition calculator. You should not use to substitute advice from nutritionists or health practitioners.

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Thank you and all the best.

What is beef rendang?

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.

Is beef rendang spicy?

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.

Where is beef rendang from?

It is originally from West Sumatra, Indonesia.

How to thicken beef rendang?

You just have to cook it longer. The longer you cook it, the thicker and drier the gravy becomes as it evaporates.

Can beef rendang be frozen?

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.

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