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A national dish
Beef rendang is Indonesian beef curry cooked in spiced coconut milk until all the liquid evaporates leaving the meat tastes rich and delicious. It is one very famous dish that originated from 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 that 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 don’t need anything else when you 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
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 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.
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 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 use the dried galangal root or the ready-pasted in a jar. I cooked with these alternatives, and the results were 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 without it. Although the aroma may slightly be different.
Perhaps I should put this coconut milk as the number two ingredient after the meat. Because it is the number one ingredient that gives rich flavour to the meat.
But then again, without the right spices and herbs, the dish will be tasteless.
So yeah, coconut milk is definitely a must. You can make your own coconut milk like in 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 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) 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.
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.
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.