Beef Rendang

I had the best beef rending I’ve ever tasted in New York about 10 years ago. I’m not sure it was 100% authentic but it was utterly delicious. The beef was fall-apart-amazing, the sauce was thick, almost dry but so dense, fruity and spicy.

You need a bit of time for this dish and you need to keep an eye on it. The sauce needs to thicken and coat the meat. That’s the important thing to nail.

This is how I tried to recreate it.

What you’ll need to feed 4

  • 750g beef suitable for slow cooking – shoulder is ideal

For the curry paste:

  • 3 shallots
  • 1 tablespoon of peeled and chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of peeled and chopped fresh galangal
  • 1 bulb of garlic (not 1 clove – 1 whole bulb… get it in)
  • 3 sticks of lemon grass, outer skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

And then

  • 2 star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom pods
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 or 3 teaspoons of palm sugar

Roughly chop and mix the paste ingredients in a food processor or use a handheld. Give it time – if you’re having trouble getting the ingredients to “catch”, add a little more oil or even a spoonful of water or two. Make sure the paste is well mixed.

Heat some oil in a large, thick-bottomed pan and fry the paste until starts to darken. This can take 10-20 minutes or even longer – keep an eye on it.

Add the star anise, cinnamon and cardomom – fry a little longer.

Add the beef and coat in the paste allowing it to colour a little.

Add the coconut milk, lime leaves and sugar. A twist of salt to help it on its way.

The meat will really need 2 1/2 to 3 hours to cook so I cooked it covered for the first half an hour just to get things moving. Some recipes I’ve read say to cook uncovered for the whole cooking but then I don’t think they cook the meat for long enough to achieve the fall-apart texture I love.

So – cook covered for 30 minutes on a heat enough for a slight bubble but nothing too extreme.

Uncover and cook for a couple of hours longer.

You’ll need to keep an eye on it. Give it a stir every so often – scrape those dark bits from the side of the pan into the sauce. You’re looking to achieve a thick, dark sauce that coats the meat – almost dry.

Once you’re happy with the texture of the meat and the sauce, take it off the heat and let it sit for few minutes. Add a squeeze of lime and the zest of the lime into the curry and you’re good to go.

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By John Loydall


  • Jill A. says:

    Delicious… have you tried this in a slow cooker?

  • John L says:

    Thanks – cooking meat like shin in the slow cooker is great and curries work well also but this dish needs to reduce to a thick, dry-ish paste so I think you really need to cook it on the hob, uncovered for most of the cooking.

  • Stef says:

    Looks lovely. I became completely obsessed with rendang last year, to the point where I was ordering Indonesian ingredients off an American website to match recipes I’d translated from Indonesian blogs. Best one I managed was with beef skirt rather than my usual beef shin, really must make it again. The photography on your blog is outstanding btw.

    • John L says:

      Thanks – glad you like the site. Yes – when you cook it you wonder why you don’t cook it all the time. It’s the way the sauce thickens at the end and you end up with a beautiful rich paste but still with the spice and fruity fragrance tones. It’s an incredible dish..

      Hmm.. may have to cook it again this week.

      • John L says:

        Hey, Stef – just realised you run the website I was looking at last night – there’s some good stuff on your site, good work.

        Funny I was only reading it last night – small world and all that.

        • Stef says:

          Yeah, that’s how I found you, saw you’d come from Hank Shaw’s site and got the link from there. It’s great the little discoveries you can make online!

  • Samantha says:

    I love eating Malaysian food and this has to be the best-looking rendang I’ve seen! The colour and texture of the curry looks perfect, so I’m eager to try it (whether it’s authentic or not!). Kudos to you for re-creating a restaurant dish and sharing it here with us.

    • John L says:

      Cheers.. It’s one of those dishes that, each time you cook, you’ll do slightly differently trying new things out.

      I cooked it again last week but made loads so we had it the day after as well. It’s even better left a day or so and then re-heated. In fact, if you do have the time, I’d always recommend making it the day before and letting it sit there to mature and allow the beef to really take on all the flavour.

  • Samantha says:

    What a great ‘selling’ point~~ make ahead and savour 😀 I love learning little tips like this!

  • Nice blog!

    Rendang is one of the most popular dishes from Padang, West Sumatra. Padang is known by their delicious meals made from coconut milk. You can make it spicy or mild, depend how you like it. 🙂

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