Time on your hands? Make a rendang

Making rendang is not difficult, but it takes precisely 60 times as long to cook it as it does to eat it (yes, I timed and calculated that). Not the best cooking–eating time ratio. I overcame hunger by popping out for battered sausage and chips (bad planning)… and the rendang made for a lovely Monday packed lunch instead.

Tea plantations

I did not know much about rendang when I decided to make it a few weeks ago. I remember trying it in Malaysia in 2006, and having it in restaurants in London. I even cooked it a couple of times a few years ago. But what I didn’t realise was that it was originally cooked up in West Sumatra in Indonesia. The rendang made its way to the Malaysian peninsular by the Minangkabau people, who are renowned travellers and have a history of leaving their homes to seek knowledge and fortune elsewhere (much like myself – and, no, I havent found mine yet).

Padang restaurants (food of the Minangkabau people) popped up all over Malaysia, Singapore, Southern Thailand and Southern Philippines, and it is now a firm part of the Malaysian menu.

Because these folks were such globetrotters, they needed food that could travel without the need of a Smeg. Unbelievably, the beef rendang can last up to 3 months! So, next time your fridge breaks, consider making this to last you throughout the hot summer (at your own risk).

Beef rendang

Beef rendang: served on special occasions, such as weddings. Or a Sunday night, alone, in front of the TV and for a Monday packed lunch at work, if you are me.

Now, this is where it started to get interesting (stay with me). Before cooking the rendang, you might think you’re about to make something that resembles a stew. But, in fact, it is the opposite of stewing – you are actually letting the liquid evaporate, leaving the meat to brown in the coconut oils from the coconut milk. So, you were stewing, but then you’re frying again.

And on that exciting note, give it a go (when you have an entire weekend to spare).


Makes 4

For the paste:

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp coriander seeds

6 shallots

6 garlic cloves

2 red chillies (seeds removed)

6 cm root of ginger

2 stalks lemongrass, the white end only

2 roots of turmeric (or 1 tbsp ground turmeric – much easier, let’s be honest)

1 lime

For the rendang:

800g stewing beef, cubed

Sunflower oil

400g can coconut milk

3 cinnamon sticks, whole

6 star anise, whole

6 cloves, whole

6 green cardamom pods, whole

1.5 tsp tamarind concentrate – be really careful not to use too much as it has a very strong taste

1 cup desiccated coconut

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 more stalk of lemongrass, whole

Small handful kaffir lime leaves

Spices for the rendang

Yes, I displayed some spices on a plate and took a photo.


  1. If you are using turmeric roots you need to deal with these first. They are very, very hard and your food processor won’t be able to handle them. Put them into a pan of boiling water for around an hour. If you are using turmeric powder you can move straight on to the next step.
  2. Place the cumin and coriander seeds into a dry frying pan and head gently for a minute or to to release the flavours.
  3. Place these and all other items in the paste list into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  4. When the turmeric is ready, grate into the paste mixture in the food processor.
  5. Place a large pan on a medium heat, and gently fry the paste mix for a few minutes until the flavours are released and it starts to change colour. It will smell amaaaazing!
  6. Add the beef and stir.
  7. Add all the remaining ingredients and leave to simmer for up to 2 hours until the meat is tender. Let the liquid evaporate until the meat is frying in the coconut juices (as mentioned above). If it becomes too dry, add a bit more liquid and repeat until done.

It’s worth the effort, I promise!

Turmeric root

Turmeric root: Bear in mind that everything that it touches turns yellow forever. I now have yellow fingers, yellow nails, yellow food processor, yellow spatula, yellow cheese grater, yellow chopping board. Shall I stop now?

Grated turmeric root

Grated turmeric root. It was like grating a block of wood.

And I leave you with…

Tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands

Tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands

Perhentian besar

Perhentian besar

Petronas Towers, KL

Petronas Towers, KL; no Zeta-Jones in sight.

And I leave you with one of my favourite photos of all time: it reminds me of very, very good night in a massive nightclub in KL. I sang (shouted) a 4 Non Blonds classic in front of circa 1,000 people, and it wasn’t even a karaoke night. Yikes. Yes.

My cameo appearance in KL

My cameo appearance in KL.


Filed under Malaysia, Recipes

2 Responses to Time on your hands? Make a rendang

  1. The Beef Rendang might be 60 times more exotic than the Battered Sausage and Chips. Reading the ingredients makes me salivate while my stomach starts to growl, and I’m not hungry right now. The culinary art in that part of the world is just amazing!
    Mke | Earthdrifter recently posted…Captured for the Camera: Saudi SunsetsMy Profile

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