No-haste-big-taste curry: Malaysian beef rendang

I’ll hold my hands up right from the start, this doesn’t look like an authentic “rendang”. Firstly, it’s pretty darn wet and doesn’t a bit resemble the other rendangs I’ve seen out there (all of which look marv). And secondly, I fiddled with the recipe a bit. However, I’m going to dub this a “wet rendang” (which is a real thing, I swears it), and press on confidently.

Wet rendang is essentially a rendang that has not been cooked for as long as a dry rendang, meaning there is some gravy left clinging to the slow-cooked meat. The fact that my rendang came out wet is in part (I admit) down to impatience: we had our lovely friend Joe round for a mid-week feed and the hunger (from all parties involved) was thick in the air. However, it’s also in part down to personal preference. My mans likes everything to come with sauce of some kind, and for him a dry meal is not a good meal. So, we ended up with this slightly juicier rendang, which I promise you was no less succulent or delicious for the adaptation.

The appeal of a rendang, particularly for a 7 month pregnant me, is that once you’ve whizzed up your curry paste ingredients, it’s just a case of throwing some meat in a pan with your paste and some coconut milk and letting it simmer away for a few hours – leaving you to chill, entertain guests, or (if you’re me) have a nap. Slow-cooking is the pregnant gal’s best friend. What’s also brilliant about this recipe is (depending on the number of people you’re feeding) the curry paste recipe makes double the quantity you need for the actual curry, so you can freeze the surplus paste and rendang another day with even less hassle. Me likey. The recipe does involve a few unusual ingredients, but you should be able to get them at your local Asian market or a good grocer (in Brighton Taj will furnish you with everything you need). And don’t be scared of breaking open the coconut – there’s a knack to it. You just hold the coconut in your palm with the three holes near your thumb and then using the back of a heavy knife (i.e. not the sharp blade) whack the coconut around the diameter. Keep whacking it and eventually it will crack. Then whack it some more until it’s broken into lots of little bits.

Ooh, and by the way, really spicy things are giving me heartburn at the minute (pregnancy woe), so you might want to crank up the heat. Adjust the spicing to your own tastes.

Malaysian Beef Rendang

(Adapted from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey)

Serves 3

For the curry paste

  • 100g finely grated fresh coconut flesh
  • 6 red kashmiri chillies
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 25g fresh turmeric, roughly chopped (or substitute for 1 tsp turmeric powder)
  • 220g shallots, roughly chopped
  • 30g fresh garlic, roughly chopped
  • 50g peeled galangal
  • 4 medium red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped.

For the curry

  • 3 tbsp flavourless oil (I used groundnut)
  • 700g blade or chuck steak, cut into 5-6 cm chunks
  • 800ml coconut milk (2x 400ml cans)
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, bruised
  • 6-7 kaffir lime leaves
  • cinnamon stick
  • 70ml tamarind water (see method for instructions), made with around 30g seedless tamarind pulp
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar.

Firstly, make your curry paste. Break open your coconut into pieces and finely grate the flesh until you have around 100g. Then heat a dry, heavy-based frying pan over a medium-heat. Add the grated coconut and toast for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until its golden. Tip it into a food processor to cool whilst you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Put the dried chillies, coriander seeds and cumin seeds into a spice grinder if you have one. I use a coffee grinder (don’t use it for coffee again afterwards though). If you don’t have a grinder then you can use a pestle and mortar. Grind to a fine powder.

Add this to the food processor with the rest of the ingredients and 100ml of water and blend to a smooth paste.

Fresh turmeric, peeled and roughly chopped

Fresh galangal root, peeled

You may need to stop and scrape the edges a couple of times. You may also need to add a little more water. Basically, you want to end up with a curry paste that looks something like this.

Now on to the curry itself. Season your beef with salt and pepper. Heat your oil in a large, heavy-based pan. Add the beef and fry for a moment or two until it has all changed colour (but not completely browned).

Add half the curry paste (then pop the other half in a freezer bag and put in the freezer). Bash your lemongrass stalks a bit until they are bruised, then throw them in with the meat.

Add one full can of coconut milk, then with the second can skim off a couple of tablespoons of the thicker cream from the top and set aside, then add the rest of the milk to the pan. Finally add the cinnamon stick, the lime leaves and a touch more salt.

While that is coming up to the boil, make your tamarind water by adding your 30g of tamarind pulp to about 100ml of hand-hot water. Work the paste between your fingers until it has broken down and the seeds have been released. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into another bowl.

Add this tamarind water to the pan and leave to simmer, uncovered, for around 2 hours, remembering to stir every now and again. Towards the end you’ll need to stir a bit more frequently to stop it all sticking too much.

After around 2 hours the sauce should be really thick and the beef beautifully tender. Remove the lemongrass and cinnamon stick from the rendang, add the palm sugar and check the seasoning. Serve with the reserved coconut cream drizzled over the top.

I served mine with steamed rice and a refreshing cucumber salad (which was tossed in a kind of nuoc cham sauce).


Filed under Beef, Chillies, Coconut, Curry, Main courses, Rick Stein, Spices

7 responses to “No-haste-big-taste curry: Malaysian beef rendang

  1. It may not look like others out there but it still looks well tasty! Might give it a go.

  2. Gary

    This looks great. I love shopping at Taj, there’s so many cool ingredients there.

  3. We’re so lucky to have Taj – it has everything.

  4. The key is to get the coconut milk to split leaving just the fat. The meat then fries in the oil at the end. You have to watch it like a hawk but it’s worth it.

  5. What is the difference between malaysia beef rendang with Minangkabau beef rendang? btw, this recipe is very interesting, I’ll try it at home.

  6. Isabel

    Hello! Your rendang looks pretty yummy, although I suspect if you used less coconut milk the end result will be much drier. According to Su-Lin of Tamarind and Thyme, you only need 400ml coconut milk (plus some water) per kilo of meat. If you leave the curry to simmer uncovered, the water will evaporate, leaving a really thick sauce at the end.

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