Recipe: Glorious Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang is an art. And I could eat it every single day of my life. While there are many ways to make this flavorful curry, there are two things for certain – the dish must be slow-cooked until the flavor absorbs completely into the meat, and – secondly – the curry must explode with flavor.

In a good way.

The flavor part is the easiest. In fact, there are so many amazing ingredients – galangal, ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves to name a few – that you can’t help but make an amazing curry just by throwing them in a pot together. As for the slow cooking? Follow those famous words of wisdom and just  “Let it be.”

NOTE: If you would like your hot pepper to grind smooth, simply soak it in hot water for half an hour. I like the little hot bits, so I processed it dry.

Recipe inspired by the cuisine of Chef Norman Musa.

Serves 2-3


For the stirfry paste:

3 stalks lemongrass, chopped
2 inches of thumb-thick ginger, peeled and chopped
4 inches of thumb-thick galangal, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 onion, quartered
3-6 dried Japonese Chili peppers (makes it medium heat)

6-8 Tbsp coconut oil

For the simmering

1 1/2 lbs beef, cubed ( I used a sirloin steak because it was on sale, but you can use tougher cuts as well)
1 small, 5.5 oz can coconut milk
5.5 oz water
2 Tbsp sugar, preferably palm sugar (coconut sugar)
6 kaffir lime leaves

Finishing touches:
1/4 cup homemade Kerisik


Gather the bounty of Malaysia. Breathe in deeply and feel yourself travel across the world. This is stovetop travel at it’s finest.

Chunk up the lemongrass, ginger, galangal, garlic, onion, and Japanese Chili peppers (if desired) and add to the bowl of a food processor.

Blend into a fine paste. I made mine rather coarse, but you might prefer a smoother mixture – even little bits of lemongrass remain fibrous after cooking…

Heat the coconut oil up in a large wok and add the seasoning paste. Fry until fragrant and softened, 2-3 minutes.Next, add on the beef, coconut milk, water, sugar, and kaffir lime leaves.

Give it a stir and let simmer for about an hour.

Meanwhile, take a nap in the shade of a large clock… you know, so you can hear the bell toll, when the hour is up.

Queen Victoria memorial in town square, Melaka, Malaysia. Photo by Ken Walker.

Little by little, all the liquid will steam away, leaving a much drier mixture.

Add the kerisik and cook another few minutes.

Serve with coconut sticky rice towers, a.k.a. Pulut Inti.

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  1. Richard Westwell says:

    Looks superb Sasha. Norman Musa was honored for you to use insperation from him!

  2. I believe some cooks, especially among the Minangkabau (who invented the dish) vary this a bit. They sometimes let it simmer for 4 hours. I don’t know if they use more liquid or a lower heat. Also, they continually watch, stir the mixture and turn the meat over, especially toward the end when most of the liquid is gone. That way, toward the end, the meat is fried; the edges absorb the sugar from the coconut milk and brown and caramelize in a delicious way.

    • Remember the episode of Top Chef where each judge chose his favorite dish in the world, and then the chefs had to cook it? Food writer and magazine editor James Oseland chose beef rendang. A few years before, Oseland wrote an article about rendang, including his recipe. I just found it online.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Yum! Mine did end up getting a bit browned at the end, when it was so dry – your description sounds about right. I was told that you know beef rendang is done when the coconut oils release back out of the sauce.

  3. Fabulous site. Just found you from Alternative Tulsa. Can’t believe I haven’t found you before?????

  4. Made the beef rendang as well as a tofu version tonight. It’s ridiculously delicious. I could also eat it every night. Made the coconut sticky rice and a banana flower salad to go with it. I made the kerisik twice – once as described, and once by toasting in the oven (far easier!) Thanks, Sasha! I will definitely make this again.

  5. Rendang is from padang (western sumatra).
    we use more liquid ( we use fresh coconut milk, store bought not as flavorsome ) and more spices and cook it slow, under low heat, and keep stirring it (stir stir stir). careful not to ruin the meat. have the patience (4 hours plus), worth the effort, (rendang can last very long in the freezer) :)

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