Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Beef Rendang recipe

I had enough time today to try my hand at a new dish. I have cooked rendang exactly once before, but didn't have a recipe. Instead I relied on my memories of food prepared by others. For a short time there was an excellent Indonesian cook here in Limerick... his rendang was to die for. Of course, places that serve good food (prepared by hand, honest ingredients, no compromises) never last... so we need to cook for ourselves!

There are many types of rendang and I will make no claims to authenticity. Though this dish is sometimes called a curry, that nomenclature is incorrect. A rendang is a way of creating a thick paste for red meat, so that it can be stored and eaten a long while (some say weeks) before it spoils. You may prefer that your version has a sauce, but a traditional rendang does not. 

The dark colour comes mainly from the tamarind... which is an amazing fruit! You can buy pulp or other preparations, but I find the paste to be easiest to use.


In a bowl put the spices and herbs: 

Two lemongrass stalks, finely diced or grated. Don't use the dry outer sheaths or ends.

Ground spices in appropriate quantities: coriander, cumin, turmeric powder, cinnamon, cardamom, salt. I didn't keep track of the amounts, so you are on your own here! In any case, it totally depends on the freshness and how much potency is left in the spice.

One star anise, if you wish.

Two pinches of dried chilli. The variety and heat is up to you. You can dice some fresh chilli too, but I was out of stock... a rare occurrence!

In a second bowl put the vegetables:

  • One large onion, finely diced.
  • Several pieces of garlic, finely diced.
  • A few thick slices of ginger, roughly diced.
  • Galangal likewise, if you have it.

Also have on hand:

  • A dozen kaffir lime leaves.
  • One tin of coconut milk. Please, not the "diet" variety, which is simply diluted with water.
  • One cup of beef stock at room temperature, if you have it. Otherwise boil water.
  • Tamarind paste. In a pinch, lime juice will do, but it's just not the same.


Brown 400-600g cubed beef in a little vegetable oil. As usual, add meat to the pan in only small batches to avoid any juices escaping. When each piece is done, pluck out to a bowl (chopsticks are handy here).

After four or so stages, the meat will be all cooked. On medium heat, toast the spices (bowl one) in the browned pan, but only briefly.

Turn heat to high, add some vegetable oil, then the contents of bowl two. Cook until the onion & garlic are translucent.

Add the following in sequence. After each, stir until the contents are warmed through:

  • beef
  • coconut milk
  • tamarind paste
  • beef stock or water

Simmer until bubbling, then reduce the heat. Do not cover.

Cook for approximately 3 hours, stirring occasionally. At first, you won't need to tend the pot too often, so you can relax with some other activity (or side dish preparation). But as the sauce reduces, you will need to stir more frequently to prevent burning.

When the sauce has reduced to a thick paste, the dish is done. Hopefully the meat is tender at the same time. 


The beef stock is essentially a timing device. If the sauce is not thick enough when the meat is done, you know that next time you need less stock. If the beef is not tender enough when the sauce has reduced, you can add more stock. 

I have noticed that as the sauce reduces, the cooking oil and coconut oil tends to escape from the mixture, pooling on top. Since I prefer very light meals, low on fat, I scoop this out with a small spoon. Today I removed at least two tablespoons and imagined my heart thanking me.

You can cook the same dish with lamb; shank is a good cut. 


Rice is essential, but beyond that little more is needed to turn rendang into a meal. I simply slice tomato and cucumber, as a basic salad. Coriander leaf or some light dressing would not go amiss. 

This dish is also excellent at room temperature. Nothing stops the flavours!

Rendang is rich in anti-oxidants and anti-carcinogens. Feel good while you pamper your taste buds!


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