Tuesday 27 October 2009

Malaysian Beef Rendang (Spicy Dry Beef Stew with Coconut)

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 flavours.

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 shallots/garlic/dried chillies- the quantities provided are rough estimates and you should increase/decrease as needed depending on the size of each clove or bulb, and your own personal taste. Also by all means make this one or two days before you intend to eat it- the flavour simple improves and intensifies the longer it is kept :) Who says leftovers can't be amazing?

Malaysian Beef Rendang (Spicy Dry Beef Stew with Coconut)
Serves 6

  • Spice Paste
Blend together until smooth:
6 small red shallots
6 cloves garlic
1” galangal
1” ginger
4 stalks lemongrass (white part only)
12 dried chillies-soaked for a few hours or overnight in warm water and deseeded
A few candlenuts

  • Kerisik

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 cloves
4 star anise
4 cardamom pods

Add and brown briefly:
1 kg stewing/casserole beef, 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 muscovado sugar if you can't get palm)
Salt to taste

Serve with hot rice or soft roti.


  1. Looks absolutely delicious and you've just reminded me that I have not made this for a long time now.

  2. I've tried a couple of rendang recipes and been dissapointed. Your's is totally different and sounds delicious, will be trying very soon; thanks for sharing.

  3. You're very welcome Jo and Debs :) this is a spot-on authentic recipe I learnt from several Malay friends so it should turn out!

  4. Hi

    Which part of beef do you use?


  5. I usually use boneless stewing steak, only because it's the cheapest on the supermarket shelves :) You can use short ribs or any other braising/casserole beef you like that can withstand long-cooking.

  6. jealous! I ate at one restaurant in my town and was pretty impressed but really want to try it out in its new location, I think this recipe is wonderful!

  7. This food comes from minangkabau (etnic group in indonesian), not from malaysian
    see this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rendang
    and all your food in labels "Malaysian", Mostly from Indonesia.
    Please correct it.

  8. To 'Anonymous':
    This is a Malay dish as the blogger mentioned. Not all Malaysians belong to the Malay ethnic group. Malays in Malaysia came mostly from Indonesia a loong time ago. So is it incorrect to call it a Malay dish as Malaysians know it? BTW, how far back do you want to go with Indonesia? Even the name itself refers to India!

    Malaysian food is a unique blend - it's truly Asia! It's generally a fusion of East & SE Asian which results in an 'improved' and enhanced version of the originals. Indonesia is only one contributor to this mix. Stating the obvious, there's Chinese, Indian and Thai included. Particular the Chinese, who play second fiddle to no one when it comes to food! So let's just enjoy the gastrony and be thankful for foodies who share their labour of love with us Netizens.

  9. Your recipe sounds lovely! Just one question: can I also use chicken instead of beef? I'm thinking of an older chicken which can withstand at least one and a half hour slow cooking. Thanks!