A delicious batch of Beef Rendang

Monday, May 03, 2021

I love beef rendang. We love beef rendang. 

As I have said in an earlier book and in my cookbook, local beef cooked the rendang way transforms it into a very special dish. From the humble to the sublime, slowly braised, beef rendang is to Malays what beef bourguignon is to the French.

I made a batch recently where some diners felt that it was "the best they have ever eaten." I won't want to stake that claim for my version as I think I have eaten some very good rendang in the past. I can think of my Mother's version which I grew up with which was constantly good. I have not been able to cook a version that taste exactly like hers and she used local Malaysian beef. I also like the version cooked up by Penang Place. 

There are indeed many types of rendang and one should have an open mind to taste the many varieties out there. From my own experience, the following tips are helpful:
  • Cooking good rendang is not something you can do in a rush. Be prepared to go for even up to three hours or more. The traditional simmering in the wok is still best and I have not been satisfied with versions where I tried cut down the time needed through pressure-cooking. As with all good curries involving an onion paste, long simmering will impart a mellow taste. 
  • As for beef cuts, I prefer those with stringy meat texture and you will get that with topside or brisket. 
  • Adding a tinge of sourness is important (Assam keping or tamarind juice).
  • While white sugar can be used, Gula Melaka or Indonesian Palm Sugar do a more complex flavour. It is hard to describe but the sauce will have a more caramelised feel and taste.
  • Dried chillies should be used as it imparts a smoky taste to the chilli oil.   
  • In my opinion, blue ginger is essential for rendang but be careful of adding too much less it overpowers the sauce. 
  • As for lemon grasss, while it can be added whole and removed later, I prefer to blend it into the sauce for the added texture. 
In any case, this blog is my cooking notes as as my wife will say very often: please write down the recipe
And so, here it is. Do note that a few years ago, I have blogged a rendang recipe here


2 kg of top side or brisket, cubed to about 2-3 cm in width

blended paste
500gm of red onions
100gm of garlic
1 inch of blue ginger 
3 stalks of lemon grass
4 Tbsp of dried red chilly paste

300 ml of cooking oil
200 gm Gula Melaka or palm sugar
1 tbsp of table salt
2 pieces of assam gelugur (dried tamarind slices)
1 pack of Kara coconut milk (200 ml)
2 tsp of Kerisik (dried coconut)
a few pieces of kaffir lime leaves
some water as needed
  1. Heat up the oil in a wok.
  2. Add the blended paste, Assam keeping, palm sugar and simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Mix in the beef cubes and stir. Add the coconut milk and kerisik. Go on a low simmer till the beef is soft and tears apart easily. The duration depends on the type of beef cuts and the type of wok or pot you are suing. Add some water occasionally if the sauce is drying up too much.
  4. Towards the end, garnish with some diced kaffir lime leaves.
It is important to be tasting all the way as you cook to make adjustments to the sauce. To add a note, sometimes I will add some cumin and coriander seeds and there are other occasions where I will blend in the turmeric leaves and some femur ginger. These are just variations you can experiment with to get a different taste to the sauce. As for kerisik, it will be best to do it yourself though I should add that I have used store-bought versions from time to time. Toast the coconut flesh in a wok, stirring constantly for about 30-40 minutes till it is light brown in colour. After this, pound in a lesong or use a good blender is to turn it into an oily paste. I have eaten versions of beef rendang which used only toasted coconut (without pouring it) and I find this acceptable too. 

Early stage of cooking it in a wok. 

You Might Also Like