I’m guessing the majority of people I know haven’t ever had the pleasure of being introduced to Beef Rendang – Indonesian Curry, I’m not even sure how it is that I started making Rendang. It seems kind of unlikely that back in the day, basically pre Internet & pre Food Network, this small Midwestern family would fall head over heels with this spicy curry beef dish that’s the national dish (and national treasure) of many countries, not just Indonesia.
It’s not easy to describe Beef Rendang. It’s surprising in the intensity of flavor, and it’s rich. And it’s kind of like a stew of beef and flavorings that are cooked impossibly long (this is a lazy afternoon around the house recipe) until it’s just about “dry” and the flavors are concentrated. The beef, of course, after all that long slow cooking is beautifully tender. It’s “You’ll only have to give it a cross look to get it to fall apart, tender!”
About Beef Rendang – Indonesian Curry:
And even though this is described as a “curry” if you, when you think of curry, you think of Indian dishes or maybe Thai, disengage your mind from those flavors. Although Rendang can share many of the same spices, the taste is extraordinarily different.
The long-cooked flavors of Beef Rendang are considered to be a dry curry, meaning there is no sauce (and these days it’s under debate as to whether it even qualifies as a curry) and those flavors can be pretty simple and straightforward like this one or amazingly complex. And when I say long-cooked, in this case I’m talking about a couple of hours time, but Rendang can be cooked over several days and was, originally, a way to preserve meat (and very likely not beef) in the Island heat.
To this day, I wish I would have written the source of my recipe; it was dutifully typed it into the book of recipes I made for my daughter when she left home, decades ago, and noted on the top, “Jess, you loved this.” And though my daughter wasn’t here when I recently made my Beef Rendang, my son, Kraig, was. And I can vouch it’s still a family favorite.
Making Beef Rendang – Indonesian Curry:
This recipe for Beef Rendang is really simple and straightforward. All it takes is time, and quite a bit of it, just like any stew. It may take more time to search out the lemongrass than to make the recipe, depending on where you live, although my grocery store carries it these days. If that’s an impossibility, sub in the zest of a lemon.
I’ve made very few changes to my original recipe. One is that I now blend some of the ingredients, namely the shallots, ginger, garlic & red chilis into a paste rather than mincing them. It’s up to you; you may finely mince if you wish and the ingredients will all still break down in the long cooking process. Sometimes mincing seems less of a hassle than pulling out the blender, using it and cleaning it, other times my hands just aren’t up to mincing anymore!
Basically, you’re going to brown the meat, add in the blended ingredients along with a few spices and the lemongrass, cook for just a minute to wake up the flavors. Then add a can of coconut milk and slowly simmer until it’s nearly gone, then add in the next can and repeat. At first, after each can is added, you’ll need to stir now and then, but as the recipe nears the end of each reduction, and the coconut milk is nearly gone, you’ll need to pay a lot closer attention. At that point, you’ll be basically slowly frying the beef and seasonings in the oil that is released from the coconut milk.
Saving Money on Beef Rendang – Indonesian Curry:
You have a lot of options as far as the beef, but you’ll want to use something well-marbled like a good stewing beef. It needs to be able to hold up and become tender under the long slow cooking. I like Sirloin, others use Chuck. The bonus is that these types of stewing meats are usually a bit cheaper than many cuts. With two pounds of beef, this isn’t the cheapest meal.
Coconut milk is pretty much always in my pantry. I use it often in dishes. Watch for low prices on coconut milk and stock up. You might find coconut milk in various areas of the store, especially if you’re in a large supermarket that has multiple sections divided by different cuisines and I often see coconut milk in the carts or shelves at the store full of gourmet ingredients priced for a quick sale. The “best if used by” date has little bearing on how long coconut milk is good for. I’ve used it literally years past that date…what’s important is how it is stored, in a cool dark, cupboard like all canned goods should be. You’re likely to find coconut milk at any Asian or Latin American market, and probably for less than you’ll find it at a grocery store.
As a matter of fact, a market is a great place to check for you beef if you have one nearby; you’ll find some cuts much cheaper than in the grocery store while some are going to be inflated, and of course, that’s a great place to look for lemongrass.
I like to serve Beef Rendang – Indonesian Curry with rice, which is cheap, and that lowers the cost of the meal a bit. Check out my Perfect Instant Pot Rice if you’re so inclined and have an Instant Pot, and I also would highly recommend Cilantro Lime Rice with this meal. I know, it smacks of Chipotle’s restaurant, but I think the flavors would go so well with the curry. I wish I would have thought of it before I made it! The Cilantro Lime Rice can be made on the stove or in the Instant Pot. This article on Beef Rendang from Wikipedia lists several traditional side dishes.Print
Beef Rendang – Indonesian Curry
Beef Rendang is a suprising melange of flavors! This rich stew is first simmered, then slowly fried in the oils resulting from the coconut milk.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: about 2 1/2 hours
- Total Time: 3 to 3 1/2 hours
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Beef Main Dishes
- Cuisine: Island
- 3 to 4 shallots, roughly chopped
- 1 inch of a thumb sized piece of ginger,
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 to 4 or more small red chiles (like bird chiles) minced or 1 to 2 teaspoons red chili flakes
- 2 pounds beef, sirloin preferred, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- oil as needed to brown beef, about 2 tablespoons
- 2 to 3 stalks lemongrass, bottom part only not leafy parts, outer layer peeled and bashed repeatedly with the blunt end of a knife
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 2 cans cononut milk, divided
- 4 cups cooked rice for serving
First prepare the paste:
Add the shallots, ginger, garlic and chilis to a small blender or food processor. Pulse to a paste, scraping down as needed. Reserve.
To prepare the Beef Rendang:
Heat oil in a heavy Dutch oven or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef, in batches, and sear, until well browned. Remove beef and set aside. Turn heat to medium-low and add in the prepared paste along with the lemongrass, turmeric, coriander, and allspice and cook, stirring often until the mixture takes on a little color and begins to appear dry, a minute or two, being careful not to burn.
Return beef, along with any juices, to the pan, stir and add the first can of coconut milk. Cover with lid slightly ajar and adjust heat to a very low simmer, bubbles breaking the surface now and then. Continue to simmer, stirring now and then, every 15 minutes or so and more often as it reduces, until the liquid is mostly evaporated with about an inch left in the bottom of the pan.
Add the remaining can of coconut milk and continue to simmer, very gently, lid off, again stirring now and then and more as the mixture reduces. Take care not to break the meat up as you stir. As the mixture reduces, it will begin to fry in the oil that separates from the coconut milk. Tend it closely. When finished, the beef should be fork tender, look nearly dry and be covered in a coating of the curry. Remove lemongrass stalks and serve the Rendang with rice.
This Rendang has a two part process when cooked. The resulting flavor is outstanding, but allow for a long slow braise.
Keywords: Asian, Bargain Meal of the Week, Beef, coconut milk, Curry, Hot Peppers, lemongrass, Sirloin
I’ll be sharing my Beef Rendang – Indonesian Curry at Fiesta Friday #295; I’m also co-hosting this week, so stop by and take a peek at all the posts. Fall is in the air!