A version of this recipe was originally posted on my old blog in 2009.
Rendang, when made well, can be a simply luscious experience. This most traditional and delectable of Malay dishes essentially consists of melt-in-the-mouth beef chunks, slow-cooked in rich coconut cream and freshly ground Asian spices until it is tender, moist and bursting with a complex blend of mouthwatering flavors.
It isn't the simplest or fastest dish to cook up, but trust me- the delicious end result is well worth it. The secret to the beautiful taste lies in the kerisik- toasted grated coconut pounded to an oily paste. I use dessicated coconut, but if you are lucky enough to have fresh grated coconut easily available, then do go for that. As with most Asian dishes, don't worry about being too exact with the aromatics - all quantities provided are estimates.
Pro tip: make this a day in advance for deeper flavor, or cool and freeze in small portions so you can reheat when you wanna. Rendang's flavors improve and intensify over time. Who says leftovers can't be amazing? :)
Malaysian Beef Rendang (Slow-Cooked Dry Coconut Curry)
Blend together until smooth:
1 medium onion or 6 small shallots
6 cloves garlic
4 stalks lemongrass (white part only)
12 dried chillies-soaked for a few hours or overnight in warm water and deseeded
A few candlenuts *optional
Toast 1½ cups dessicated coconut (makes about 6-8 tablespoons) slowly over low-medium heat until it turns from white to golden brown, stirring frequently. Then pound with a pestle and mortar, or grind in a spice mill (once it has cooled) until it forms an oily paste.
*Kerisik keeps well so you can make a big batch and store for future use if desired*
Cooking the Rendang
Heat 5 tbsp oil and fry spice paste until fragrant. Add:
1 cinnamon stick
4 star anise
4 cardamom pods
Add and brown briefly:
2 lbs beef brisket, cut into cubes
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 2” lengths and smashed
Pour in and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently until almost cooked:
1 cup (250ml) coconut cream
1 cup water
2 tsp tamarind juice (soak a bit of dried tamarind pulp/block/paste in warm water, then pour through a sieve and discard seeds/fibres)
Blend well into meat, cover and simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally for 2 hours or until gravy is dry and meat is tender:
8 kaffir lime leaves, sliced thinly
8 tbsp kerisik
1 turmeric leaf (if you have it)
1 heaped tbsp palm sugar (or dark brown sugar if you can't get palm)
Salt to taste
Cool and refrigerate overnight for better flavor. Reheat and serve with hot rice or soft roti.