My first experience with Malaysian beef rendang was probably as far from Malaysia as you could possibly be. I was living in Switzerland, and across from my office was a small takeout stand that offered a number of Indonesian and Malaysian dishes. There were so many delicious dishes the gentleman prepared, but beef randang was one of my favorites. I also enjoyed beef randang in Singapore, a city-state rich in cuisine heavily influenced by Chinese, Indian, Indonesian and Malaysian cultures (as a side note, I can’t wait for Anthony Bourdain’s new market in NYC and the rumored hawker stalls).
Beef randang is a spicy slow-cooked beef dish that is simmered in spices and coconut milk until the coconut milk evaporates and the beef is left to caramelize in the remaining coconut oil and beef fat. This is not a dish to be rushed. Take your time, the longer it cooks, the better the flavor profile develops, plan on at least 3 hours, 4 would be better.
Oh, and how shall I describe the flavors! First, there is the lemongrass and ginger which is the first captivating guest, then the spice of the chilies kicks in (intense if you use those little red bird’s eye or Thai chilies) bringing the party up several notches. Finally, the smoothness of the coconut milk brings a harmonious balance back to your mouth/palate.
Some of the ingredients may be a tad tough to find, but most Asian markets should have the kaffir lime leaves and galangal (similar to ginger but with a peppery, citrusy taste to it). I purchase mine frozen at Asia Market in NYC on Mulberry St., but these ingredients including the Thai chilies can be ordered online from a number of sources including through Amazon.com.
Finally, I should mention that I like to serve beef rendang with steamed basmati rice topped with a little ghee and sliced cucumbers tossed with rice vinegar, or as in the case of the other night, some sautéed baby bok choy (I also swapped out the beef for venison stew meat – it was delicious!).
- 1 1/2 lb. boneless short ribs (or well marbled beef chuck)
- 2 Tbsp. coconut oil (or canola oil)
- 4 shallots, roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1-inch piece of galangal, roughly chopped (optional)
- 2 Tbsp. red pepper flakes (crushed red pepper)
- 2 stalks lemongrass, white parts only, roughly chopped (or 3 Tbsp. lemongrass paste)
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 cinnamon stick (about 2-inches long)
- 2 star anise, whole (tied in a cheesecloth pouch with cloves)
- 3 cloves, whole
- 1 can ( 13 ounces) coconut milk
- 1 cup water
- 2-3 red bird’s eye (Thai) chilies (optional)
- 4 kaffir lime leaves, whole + 2 finely sliced
- 1 Tbsp. palm sugar (raw sugar can be substituted)
- Add the shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, coriander, turmeric and salt to a food processor and blend until a smooth paste. Adding a little water can help blend the ingredients if they stick to the sides of the food processor.
- Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook the meat in batches, turning as needed to brown all surfaces, do not overcrowd the meat. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Repeat as needed to brown all the meat, adding more oil if needed.
- Turn heat to medium-low and add the spice paste, stir constantly and cook for about 10 minutes until it’s a thick paste and fragrant. Add water if needed to prevent the paste from burning.
- Add the browned beef, coconut milk, water, cinnamon stick, star anise and clove bundle, 4 kaffir lime leaves, bird’s eye chilies and sugar to the pot, stir briefly and loosely cover the pot, simmer for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. After 3 hours, the meat should be very tender and the liquid reduced to a thick paste. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary (sugar for sweetness, red pepper flakes for added spice, and salt if needed).
- Remove lid and turn heat to medium-high, continue to evaporate the liquid, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot to prevent burning, about 30 minutes. When done, the meat will look a carmalized dark brown and coated with a thick paste of the spices, with no liquid left in the pot (only oil from the meat and coconut milk).
- Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise/clove pouch, serve over basmati rice and garnish with thin slices of kaffir lime leaves.