Beef Rendang – my version…


Beef Rendang Recipe

A “I can’t believe I never have….” Moment.

I had never cooked Beef Rendang in my first 5 years of being in Singapore, but have consumed so many dishes of it and I absolutely love it.

So why have I not cooked it before? No idea – but here we go. My version of the infamous beef rendang.

'Winner, winner, beef dinner' - my rendition of Beef Rendang
‘Winner, winner, beef dinner’ – my rendition of Beef Rendang

So my first time happened one weekend whilst walking around Sentosa of all places. We ended up going to The Maritime Museum as it was pouring down with rain, and clearly we needed to be inside. What a great place that is, focusing on the origins of Singapore and its trading relationships with the rest of Asia and World – notably trading spices, food ingredients and even cooking techniques.

One interactive module at the exhibit was sharing how certain dishes originated and were adapted in Singapore – dishes such as Thai Tom Yum Noodles, Malay Assam Penang Laksa and Indonesian Wet Beef Rendang. Plus get this folks, it gave you the recipes – you actually entered your email address and it then sent me a pdf with the recipes and pictures. Nicely done Maritime Museum.

Fancy a couple of tidbits on Rendang? Yes? Well here you go;

  • It apparently originates from Indonesia and an ethnic community called ‘the Minangkahau’;
  • It’s appreciation now extends through slightly different versions in to Malaysia, Brunei, Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand and of course Singapore;
  • In 2011 a vote was held by CNN, of all people, that asked an on-line poll of 35,000 people what was their ‘top 50 World’s most delicious food’ – apparently Beef Rendang came out as number one. Mind you probably would when polling 35,000 expats from Minangkahau – just joking, I am sure it was absolutely completed with extreme impartiality; and
  • It is also known as (and I love this) ‘West Sumatra caramelised beef curry’. Come on does that now throw some mystery of jungles and spices to this dish?

Right enough of Daddy-pedia, let’s get to the cooking of this flipping delicious dish. But before I do, please benefit from a lesson learnt from yours truly. Do not rush this. I did my first time and ended up with beef you could use for roof tiles – yes a tad tough. Friends you gotta treat this dish with some respect, and time and attention – perhaps that’s why it reached the heady heights of the number one spot in the CNN poll.

All you need with this is some simple steamed rice, nothing less and certainly nothing more. Prepare to make this dish for a dinner, party, special occasion the following day as it really does make it so much better to sit for a day prior to consumption. This will serve four ‘big’ eaters.

Phase I – making the marinade;

  • 10 shallots or 5 small red onions roughly chopped;
  • 6 garlic cloves roughly chopped;
  • 4 heaped teaspoons of Sambal (yes cheat) – I used Oelek Sambal, (folks with no access to Sambal’s could replace with 4 teaspoons of chili sauce + a half teaspoon of shrimp paste);
  • 2 inch knob of young ginger roughly chopped; and
  • 4 lemon grass stalks trimmed and peeled (remove couple of the outer layers) and roughly chop.

Whizz all of this in a blender until it forms a paste. It really should not be smooth, but a little on the chunky side as I really do see this as a rural dish.

Take about 8-900g of beef and cube it. Rib eye would be excellent as the fat melts during the slow cook process, but equally stewing steak would be fine. Put this in a bowl once cubed and then add all the marinade above. Take a sharp pointed knife and go Psycho on it – as in stab that meat all over. You’re basically opening the meat to let the marinade soak in. Again as stated try to do this the day before and cover with some foil and leave to marinade in the fridge.

Phase II – finishing off;
Take the bowl of marinated beef from the fridge, as you don’t want it freezing cold when you cook it.

For finishing off you will need;

  • 2 heaped teaspoons ground cumin;
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander;
  • 7 whole cloves;
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric;
  • 500ml coconut cream;
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce;
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar;
  • 3-4 teaspoons of tamarind water/asam paste (for those that can’t get, try the juice of 3 limes – but tamarind please if you can get);
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice;
  • 1 cinnamon stick; and
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves.

Take your wok and add 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil and when hot stir-fry the cumin, coriander, cloves, and turmeric until the smell starts to waft. But be careful not to let these burn.

Add all the other ingredients above and stir gently on the heat until it starts to brown and almost caramelize. Add in the meat with all the marinade, lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and leave it simmering slowly slowly for about 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally to stop it burning and sticking, until that meat is tender soft, the liquid has nearly gone and it has a reddish brown oily covering.

You are done. Remove that cinnamon stick and the kaffir lime leaves.

I would serve in one big bowl, with the rice accompaniment. This is a flipping belter believe me.