Authentic Indonesian beef rendang
Beef rendang is a delicious Indonesian dry beef curry cooked in spicy coconut milk. The beef is slow-cooked until all the liquid evaporates, leaving the meat soft and tender. It tastes delicious with aromatic rendang sauce.
It is one of the most famous dishes originating from West Sumatra, Indonesia, and has reached all over the country and beyond.
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You might encounter this dish in neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. Like any food worldwide, this original rendang from Indonesia has many versions according to the place that adopted it. Therefore, you might come across Malaysian rendang or Singaporean rendang. But all is rooted in Padangnese (West Sumatran) rendang.
If you go to Indonesia, you can always find an eating place that serves this dish on their menu in any region/ province across the country. So you’ll see why beef rendang is a national Indonesian dish.
Traditionally, the West Sumatran cook this flavorsome dried rendang as a signature dish for the festive seasons, such as Eid al Adha and Eid al Fitr. Or for celebratory occasions such as weddings and community events. But nowadays, people make the dish whenever they like as a part of the home food menu.
Like any food recipe, there are hundreds if not thousands of authentic beef rendang recipes. After tasting numerous, I’m confident that the recipe I’m sharing here offers the best flavor of beef rendang.
It’s a family recipe that my mom shared with me. Now, I want to share it with you.
Types of rendang
There are two types of rendang: one with gravy, also known as Kalio, and the other with a dry curry without gravy. This difference is achieved according to the length of cooking time.
The longer the cooking process is, the thicker and drier the gravy becomes as it evaporates. And the richer and more intense the flavor you get.
The one without gravy will turn dark brown, almost black. Therefore, it is called rendang hitam, which means black rendang. And this one is the real deal of beef rendang.
And the one with the gravy has a consistency like ordinary curry and is more luscious.
Furthermore, the dish varies according to the type of meat you use. Though the most common one is made with beef, there are also chicken and goat rendang.
Just like most dishes from the Sumatra region, rendang is cooked in coconut milk with spices and herbs that give an irresistible aroma and flavor. And the hint of sweetness from caramelized coconut milk makes the dish ever so moreish.
The type of beef to use
Contrary to what some recipes suggest, you need good quality and fat-free beef meat to make beef rendang. Chunks of beef chuck, topside, shin, or brisket are the popular options for the dish.
Because of its long, slow-cooking process, even the hard beef shin will become meltingly tender.
Ingredients for authentic Indonesian rendang
In short, you only need four things to make this delicious dry curry. They are beef, spices, herbs, and coconut milk.
As for the spices, you need ground cumin, ground coriander, red chilies, and galangal.
Note that people in Indonesia use fresh red chilies and galangal roots.
But to simplify and make things more practical, I use dried red chili powder (Kashmiri red chili powder is my favorite because of its color and flavor).
You can also use dried galangal root or galangal paste in a jar. They are good alternatives.
Now, for herbs, you will need ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and turmeric leaf. It may be tricky and hard to get the latter because turmeric leaf is not available at regular Asian shops or at Chinatown.
So you may have to look and order online. But if you find it impossible to get it, I would say that you still can make mouthwatering beef rendang without it. So don’t worry about it.
Last but not least, you need coconut milk to make rendang. It is the number one ingredient that gives the meat a rich flavor. Make sure you choose good quality tinned coconut milk. And even better if you make it yourself.
How to make the best beef rendang
There are two ways of cooking rendang, one with spice paste and the other without.
The video and images I share in this post refer to the latter. It is a simplified method, but the end result of this recipe yields a good rendang with the taste of authentic rendang.
For this one, you will chop the onion, mince the ginger, finely chop the galangal, and use Kashmiri red chili powder (or any Asian red chili powder).
Place the beef, chopped onion, minced ginger, galangal, ground cumin, ground coriander, chili powder, salt, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and turmeric leaf (if using) in a cooking pot. Give it a stir as you cook over medium heat. Then, put the lid on and let it cook until the beef pieces are cooked through.
Next, add the coconut milk, bring it to a boil, and let it simmer. Keep an eye on it and keep stirring every now and again to prevent the bottom of the pot from burning.
If you want, you can turn the heat to high to reduce the sauce quickly. When you see the gravy has evaporated halfway, reduce the heat and continue to cook until you get soft and tender beef with little to no gravy.
It takes approximately an hour for the gravy to dry up. In between, I turn the heat up and down to quicken the cooking process.
The other method, which is the traditional way to cook the rendang, is by grinding all the spices until they form a smooth paste.
You can use a pestle and mortar like in the olden days. Or, if you’re like me and want to cook fast, you can use a food chopper/ food processor.
Once you get a smooth curry paste, place the beef pieces and the rest of the ingredients, including the spice paste, in the cooking pot and cook until the coconut milk reaches a boiling point. Then follow the rest as above.
If you want proper black rendang, let the beef slow cook at low heat with the lid on until the gravy evaporates and turns caramelized. Just don’t forget to keep turning and stirring, especially when the liquid starts to dry up.
Tips to make authentic rendang Padang
- Choose the best beef you can afford and cut the beef to an equal size. I usually cut in about 1.5 – 2 inches cubes. Ensure you don’t cut the beef too small, as those pieces will shrink even more due to cooking time.
- If you use tinned coconut milk, choose the best possible because not all canned coconut milk is equal. Some brands only put less than 50% of the milk in the tin. And some put loads of thickening agents that make the dish taste a bit weird. I won’t be able to recommend the same thing to all of you as you may live in different parts of the globe. But if you are in the UK, I recommend using this one. I find it best, especially if I want to use it for savory Asian recipes.
- And if you want to go more authentic, you can make your coconut milk by mixing some water with grated coconut. Mix and squeeze the coconut until you see the milk coming out. Then, you squeeze and sieve the coconut over a mixing bowl. You must put water gradually to ensure you get thick milk out of it.
- As mentioned above, it is not easy to get turmeric leaves. If you’re one of them, you can omit it altogether. Just make sure you have the rest from the list of ingredients, especially the spice paste ingredients.
Ways to enjoy the dry beef curry
You can enjoy the cooked beef rendang with hot plain white rice.
Traditional rendang is best enjoyed with hard-boiled rice called lontong as a part of the celebration menu, such as Eid or weddings. You can check my post on how to make lontong.
Usually, Padangnese (West Sumatran) would have the dish with similarly spicy dishes such as Balado kentang (potato cooked in spicy chili paste), sayur nangka (spicy jackfruit curry), and sambal ijo (green chilies cooked with onions and green tomatoes).
How to store the leftover beef rendang
In the olden days, beef rendang was made to preserve the meat. Because there was no refrigerator then. And rendang tastes even better when you leave it longer than overnight. I think the flavor of the dish develops better over time.
So, if you made a rendang in bulk, you can keep it in a tight-lid container and store it in the fridge/ refrigerator for about 3-4 weeks. You can also freeze it and keep it for up to 2 months.
The best way is to put the meat in a food container or vacuum-sealed food bag according to portions. When you need it, you can take the amount you like.
What to serve beef rendang with
Below are some Indonesian recipes that will go well with beef rendang in your food spread.
- Soy sauce chicken – Ayam Kecap.
- Indonesian fried chicken – Ayam Goreng Bumbu.
- Lontong Sayur Betawi – vegetable curry with hard-boiled rice cakes.
- Opor Ayam: chicken stew in spiced coconut milk.
Thank you for checking out my beef rendang recipe. I hope you like it and will want to try it. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below, I would really appreciate it.
Thank you and all the best.
Indonesian Beef Rendang
- Cooking pan or
- Wooden spoon
- Food processor or
- Food chopper
- 1 ¾ pounds boneless beef cut in chunks.
- 2 medium-sized onions finely chopped.
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin.
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander.
- ½ Inch galangal.
- 1 inch ginger.
- 1 ½ teaspoons red chilli pepper powder/ Kashmiri red chili powder, or 10-15 fresh red chillies (see the note)
- 1 lemongrass.
- ½ turmeric leaf optional.
- 5 kaffir lime leaves.
- 2 cans good quality coconut milk (2 x 13.5 fl.oz. canned unflavored coconut milk).
- 1-2 teaspoons salt according to taste.
- Using a pestle and mortar, pound and grind the onions, galangal, ginger, and fresh chilies (if using) into a paste. You can also use a food processor to make this paste. Just put the onion, galangal, ginger, and chilies in the food processor. Then give it a blitz until all the become a thick paste.
- Put the meat in a big wok, add in the spices and herbs paste, the cumin, coriander, lemongrass, turmeric leaf, kaffir lime leaves, and salt.
- Stir until all the meat pieces are covered with spices. Put the lid on and cook at medium heat. Keep checking and stirring every now and again.
- After about 20-30 minutes when the meat looks cooked, add in the coconut milk. Stir and cook further with the lid on at medium-high heat until the milk reaches boiling point, then turn the heat to low. If the coconut milk overflows your cooking pan, you can take the lid off or leave it slightly ajar. Don't forget to always keep checking and stirring. And be careful with the boiling gravy that can be scattered around.
- Rendang should be ready within a few hours. But at this point, the rendang will have quite a bit of gravy. You can enjoy it if you want to.
- If you like to have a proper Rendang Hitam (black rendang), you have to cook longer for at least another hour. Until all the liquid evaporates completely and the color of your rendang becomes very dark brown. You can quicken the process by cooking at medium-high heat so the gravy evaporates quickly. But, take care not to let it stick to the wok, or worse, to burn. Keep checking and stirring.
- When all the sauce is gone, and the rendang turns dark brown, you can switch the heat off. Your black rendang/ rendang hitam is ready.
- If you use beef, you can either choose topside, shin, or brisket. Cut the meat into 2 inches cubes, and pierce each piece with skewers or a fork a few times. I promise this little thing will make your rendang tastier.
- You can use fresh red chilies, but make sure they’re grounded into a fine paste together with other herbs and spices. But really, I’ve tried using both fresh and dried chilies with the same result, which is yummy rendang. So, don’t fret if you can’t get fresh ones. Don’t worry, you can just use chili powder.
- When it comes to chilies, you can always improvise according to your taste. Although the original rendang is quite hot due to a large number of chilies, in this recipe I only put a “moderate” amount of chilies. So, I suggest you put this moderate amount of chili at the beginning, then put some more after you tasted your rendang halfway through your cooking.
- If you use fresh lemongrass, cut it into one-inch length pieces so that we can get the most of its flavor. If you use lemongrass paste, you can put just a little less than one teaspoon of it. But please please don’t use lemongrass powder. They’re useless.
- As for Turmeric leaf, I did put it as optional, but I strongly suggest you try your best to get it. If you can only get the powder form, put 1 teaspoon of it. But do not fret if this leaf is not available to you. You will still make a good rendang.
Nutritional info in this recipe is only estimate using online calculator. You should refer to it as a guide only. Please verify with your own data if you seek an accurate info.
Beef rendang is an Indonesian dry curry that is made with good-quality beef meat and cooked in spicy aromatic coconut milk. It has spicy chili heat with a hint of sweetness from the caramelized coconut milk.
Yes, it can be spicy. The traditional rendang will look very dark in that it’s almost black and has a bit of fiery chili heat.
It is originally from West Sumatra, Indonesia.
You just have to cook it longer. The longer you cook it, the thicker and drier the gravy becomes as it evaporates.
Yes, you can also freeze beef rendang and keep it for 2 months. The best way is to put the meat in a food container or vacuum the food bag according to portions. And when you need it, you can just take the amount you like.