NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
Rendang is a dry curry originating among the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, and later spreading throughout Indonesia and Malaysia. It’s one of the most recognizable Southeast Asian dishes, with its distinct…well, ugliness and signature intensity. This “dry” method consists of simmering down coconut milk for several hours to intensify the flavors (and also preserve the meat, which was probably how the dish was started). The end result is a taste so significant that it can be downright overwhelming.
Rendang is usually made with beef, but it can sometimes be found using mutton or water buffalo. For this dish, I used a combination of TX Bar Organics’ delicious and lean stew meat, and a pound of fattier chuck roast. This allowed me to use the chuck roast’s rendered fat to brown the beef during the last stage of cooking.
For the spice paste –
1 bell pepper (red or orange preferred)
4 cloves garlic
2 macadamia nuts (unsalted preferred)
1 tsp chili pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp water
Everything else –
2 lbs beef (chuck, round, stew meat, or boneless short ribs), cut into 1″ cubes
4 stalks lemongrass, cut into 2″ pieces (white part only)
1 can coconut milk
1 cinnamon stick
7 kaffir lime leaves
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1 tsp coconut oil
Combine all of the ingredients for the spice paste and process until it has a thick, oatmeal-like consistency. You’ll want to scrape down the sides of your container a couple times to make sure everything gets properly mixed.
One quick note: you’ll want to use a shallow skillet if you have one, to allow the liquid to evaporate more easily. Our 12″ skillet worked perfectly for this dish.
Warm the coconut oil in the pan on med heat for a minute or two, then add the spice paste.
Simmer the paste, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes, until aromatic.
Add the beef, mixing well, and simmer for another two minutes.
While the paste and beef are cooking, you can take a second to prep your other ingredients.
Add the rest of the ingredients (coconut milk, lemongrass, cinnamon, kaffir lime, bay leaf, salt) and bring to a simmer, then reduce to med/low heat.
Now the dish will make a slow and steady transformation. The liquid will both evaporate and darken. Continue to simmer on med/low, stirring every 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated, which could take anywhere from two to three hours. This picture is after one hour of simmering.
Two hours of simmering.
Three hours of simmering, and ready. Next, reduce the heat to low and allow the meat’s fat to render, should take an additional 30 minutes or so. Stir it after 15 minutes.
Remove the kaffir lime leaves, the bay leaf, and the cinnamon stick, and serve. I like to leave the lemongrass in the dish but be sure to warn your guests that they aren’t supposed to eat them!