Thursday, January 31, 2013

Recipe: Beef Rendang

While New York has all this beautiful euphoria and wonderful eating, do you ever find that sometimes when you're in a big city, you're just that much happier to see a friendly face and eat comfort food? Do you ever find that when you look back, it's not the fancy meals that you remember the best but the unusual experiences and the warmth of the time that you spent with people?

I get that all the time! In New York, I'm blessed to have some really wonderful friends and many of whom share the same passion for good eating and good cooking as I. One such friend, M, hosted a lunch while I was there and it was a great opportunity to spend some time cooking and baking with her.

To be honest, there are only so many days that you can spend eating out and far better sometimes, are the days you spend preparing to eat in. Let me tell you more about M and why I just love her. She hails from the same part of the world as I but from a young age, lived both in the US and Asia. She's graduated from Stanford and Harvard, has done the whole route of being an engineer, an investment banker, a private equity scout, a photographer and culinary school. She's full of dreams and whimsy and this delicate Asian mix between quiet and 'garang', determined and nonsensical and she lives to cook and eat. Give me a girl who reads and eats, anytime.

She also maintains a wonderful blog, filled with her artistic adventures in photography and food, here and here and for lunch, she had decided on a Malaysian menu and beef rendang. This is a picture of our sumptious lunch, with Thai lemongrass-grilled roast chicken, fried eggs, beef rendang, pan-grilled laksa fish, ikan bilis and kueh lapis with fresh berries for dessert.

This is M's beef rendang recipe, with notes from her family's kitchen. It produces a classic beef texture that is soft, striated, succulent, the flavour is warm, aromatic and unlike a lot of local, sharper versions of beef rendang, it is very nuanced and smooth. It just melts in your mouth and it was the perfect end to a very good trip.

A classic Malay dish of beef braised in coconut milk and Asian aromatics often served as an accompaniment to Nasi Lemak (coconut rice).


1) 8-10 Shallots
2) 4-6 Cloves of garlic
3) 3-4 stalks of lemongrass
4) 1 inch knob of galangal
5) 3 inch knob of ginger
6) 1 Cinnamon stick
7) 2 cans of coconut Milk
8) 1 1/2 cups of desiccated Coconut
9) 2 – 3 lbs Stewing beef
10) Salt
11) Freshly ground black pepper
12) Vegetable oil


1. Mince the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, galangal and ginger in a food processor or mortar and pestle.

2. Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Saute the above mixture until fragrant and the oil begins to separate – do not allow to burn.

3. Add the stewing beef and lightly brown with the shallot mixture.

4. Add coconut milk and slowly raise the heat to a boil and immediately turn it down so that it sustains a very light simmer. Simmer until most of the liquid from the coconut milk has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper towards the end of this stage.

5. While waiting for the stew to simmer its liquids away, lightly toast the desiccated coconut in a toaster oven until a deep tan color – the color transitions quickly into a burnt brown so keep a careful eye on the toaster. Remove the coconut from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

6. Pulverize the toasted coconut in a mortar and pestle or food processor. If using the former, the coconut is ready when a shimmer of oil forms on the coconut. If using a food processor, pulverize as finely as possible.

7. Add the coconut to the braising beef and heat through, approximately 5 minutes, before serving.

8. As with most stews and braises, the rendang tastes better if prepared 24 hours in advance although this is entirely optional.

Note: As with most Malaysian dishes, the quantities specified are often approximations. I’ve observed my mother make this dish a number of times and adapted those observations to approximations denoted in the above recipe.

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