For all the flavour of South East Asia, this intensely flavourful Indonesian Beef Rendang has it all and then some. Learn why this dish is amongst the most treasured in all of Indonesia – and see for yourself how simple it is to make at home…
Beef Rendang is an Indonesian beef curry that epitomises everything I love in a South East Asian food. Like a delicious Malaysian Beef Curry, meltingly tender meat, intense rich sauce and a delectably complex flavour – the beef rendang delivers top marks in all categories. A thick, clingy sauce coats big chunks of butter-soft beef - no knife required. It's also one of the easiest curries to make. It's just a waiting game... Beef Rendang is just one of the dishes from my Best Malaysian Curry Recipes - check one, or all, of those out too.
How long should I cook a Beef Rendang?
Low and slow is the way to get the perfect beef rendang. There's a world of difference to a well cooked curry and a badly cooked one. My rendang recipe gives plenty of time to get the meat tender and the sauce to the right consistency - so, don't get too excited or greedy and take to off the heat too early! Time is your friend with a Beef rendang.
The best rendang curry paste?
To start we create two mixtures and combine. A wet paste and a dry spice mix - this creates most of the flavour to the sauce and includes all manner of delights like lemongrass, galangal, garlic, turmeric, ginger, fennel, star anise - you get the picture...
Frying the paste in what may seem like a lot of oil ensures all the raw ingredients are cooked out. Once all the oil begins to separate from the paste, we're ready for the next step.
Next up are the remaining ingredients, creamy coconut milk will give the sauce a delicious full flavour. Incidentally, I like large hunks of beef for my rendang (about the size of the palm of your hand) Makes for good eating later!
Now it's just a matter of time - the longer the better really. 3 hours is a guide, but if you need to cook yours longer (some meats refuse to give up the fight) then just leave it til it's nice and tender.
The next ingredient and one which lifts the curry to new heights is toasted coconut or kerisik as it's known in Indonesia. I buy my coconut pre-grated and frozen, you should do the same! Nobody has the patience to crack a coconut and grate it right?
How do I get the authentic separated sauce?
Once the rendang sauce has reduced for the right amount of time - something seemingly alarming will happen within the last few moments. All that coconut cream and fat from the meat, will suddenly separate from the sauce, leaving a thick slick of oil around the meat and sauce. This is 100% legit authentic and should not be feared. Strolling around South East Asian markets you see this player of oil on almost all curries and sauces. The vendors will invariably just stir it in before serving - it's as if it never existed! Just remember, it's all flavour!
NOW, it's up to you whether you try and get rid of this, or like me embrace celebrate the duality of the sauce. Such is its richness, Beef Rendang is only meant to be eaten in small quantities anyway - so a little bit of something naughty is not too bad is it? Like I say, either stir it in and pretend you didn't see it, or skim it off to lighten the load a little.
Rendang serving suggestions
Because beef rendang is a dry curry, as in, the sauce is thick and clingy it's the perfect candidate for Asian breads - breads in Malaysia and Indonesia are a triumph of flavour and texture. The flaky roti breads are amongst some of my favourite things to eat in the world. I tried to make them once, and after a day of faffery I was left with a pile of stodgy rubbish - so I'm leaving THAT task to the Grandmothers and Aunties of Indonesia and Malaysia. Instead - I buy the frozen kind, which you can pick up at any Asian supermarket in the frozen aisle. Beware - they're buttery and not especially healthy. In for a penny!?
Alternatively you can serve with some plain Jasmine rice which is obviously a great option. Regardless of which option you choose, I like to break up the richness of the sauce with a simple side of salad vegetables - I'll usually serve with some fresh tomato wedges, a few thick slices of cucumber and a little cilantro. That cuts through the intensity and cleanses the palette, ready for your next mouthful.
Add all the paste ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend into paste. Set aside.
To make the spice mix
In a dry frying pan toast the spices over a medium heat until they start to pop around the pan a little. Tip into a spice grinder or pestle & mortar and blend into a fine powder.
Combine the powder with the spice paste and set aside.
To make the curry
In a dry pan - toast the coconut until it's lightly golden - set aside.
Heat the oil in a large pan until just hot. Add the cardamom, the leftover parts of the lemongrass stalks, and kaffir lime leaves and let them sizzle for 10 seconds before adding the spice paste.
Fry the paste for 3-4 minutes to cook out the raw ingredients a little.
Add the beef and stir to coat everything. Now, pour in the coconut milk along with 2 canfulls of water. Season with the salt and sugar.
Stir well and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer (covered) for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and continue simmering gently for 1 hour (stirring regularly) to reduce the liquid. The beef should be nice and tender by now.
After the 3 hours are up, if there's stil a lot of liquid, turn up the heat and reduce the sauce until it's very thick, the oil will separate from the sauce. This is normal. When thick and clinging to the beef, stir in 2/3 of the coconut and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Remove from the heat and serve hot, sprinkled with the remaining toasted coconut.I like to serve mine with coconut rice or flaky paratha/roti breads (you can find these in the frozen section of most Asian or Indian food stores). A little crunchy side salad helps to cut through the rich sauce.