Beef Rendang

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.

You’ll Need:
For the spice paste –
1 bell pepper (red or orange preferred)
5 shallots
4 cloves garlic
1″ galangal
1″ ginger
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.

Finished product.

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!

Serve with rice or cauliflower rice.

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18 thoughts on “Beef Rendang

  1. This looks right up my alley! Man, I think this would be perfect for the cool days that are rolling in, I love spices especially when it gets chilly. That spice paste is SUCH a gorgeous colour too. Okay, clearing my schedule, time to make this ASAP!

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  2. This looks amazing. It’s funny you posted this now. I just found a recipe for chicken rendang on Saveur’s website which I made on Monday. It was incredible. I also used star anise and cardamom pods. I really will have to give this a try with beef. I love love love all your recipes. I like how you delve into international cuisine (especially the southeast asian and indian). Thanks so much for sharing; your work is very appreciated. :)

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  3. i can’t wait to make this, i’m so ready for cool fall weather:) Thanks for the tip Meaghan regarding the star anise and cardamom, i’ll def incorporate those flavors when i make this. AND last but not least, thanks to Mr D. Man for providing such a great resource to us paleo folks that don’t want to give up our international cuisine. I don’t even think you know how much i read/use your site.

    p.s. would you consider doing a blog post regarding canning?? I’ve never canned and i’m really interested in doing it. I would love step by step instructions on how to can sauces, stewed tomatoes, bar b q sauce, bone broth, etc…oh and my step daughter is just itching to make pickles and spicy green beans. Anyways, that would be awesome if you could. THANKS

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    1. Unfortunately, I have a pretty lousy canning setup, since I have a glass stovetop – the usual canning tubs are made for gas stoves :( That’s all to say that I just need to get some new materials before I can do any canning in earnest; however, I did do some spaghetti sauce last year (http://thedomesticman.com/2011/08/19/canned-spaghetti-and-pizza-sauce/) as well as some BBQ sauce earlier this year (http://thedomesticman.com/2012/02/21/paleo-barbecue-sauce/), both using a water bath and they came out pretty good!

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    1. As an Indonesian, Rendang is one of my favourite dishes. My German husband loves it too, but of course with a lot of chillies (no bell peppers) and more coconut milk. Just like what we have back in my country.

      Tastes also really good with red beans (kidney beans), and potatoes (cut into cubes). ;-)

      Thank you anyway for the recipe. Now I know how to make it for our friends who doesn’t like chillies!

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  4. Oh no! I wish I hadve found this recipe before I made beef rendang. I have mine cooking now and it called for “meat curry powder” (I hate recipes calling for pre-made spice mixes) so I bought a fijian meat marsala mix from my local asian supermarket and mixed it with turmeric and now it smells very strong… perhaps excessively strong while it is cooking.

    I trusted the recipe because the chef in the video was asian. Wow that’s racist of me but I thought it gave the recipe authenticity. Ah well if it doesn’t turn out well I have your recipe to fall back on for next time. Yours looks super authentic except that I understand that rendang must have toasted coconut in it and I wanted to know: what are the macadamia nuts for? Thickening since there’s no toasted coconut?

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  5. I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect beef rendang recipe for about 3 years now. I’ve tried many recipes, some complicated (beef was tough), some simple (beef was tough). I know how to braise beef (e.g. nice beef chuck, trimmed but still marbled) so that it falls apart, but I still have a hard time with the way Indonesians do it (no pre-browing, but boiling the beef from a raw state). The best beef rendang I had was in Amsterdam — I’ve also had it in Indonesia (beef was tough). Your recipe looks great, and I can’t wait to try it the next time I’m in the mood for beef.

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