INDONESIAN RECIPES – Part 4 – Beef Rendang

Bali is a Hindu island, and while they don’t hold the cow in quite such high esteem as their Indian cousins, you won’t find many Balinese eating it regularly. The Sumatrans and Javanese however, love a bit of buffalo, which is the meat you should use to make this dish if Imageyou can get a hold of it. I have made it using buffalo meat in the past with Laverstoke Park’s excellent product. It’s sold ready cut in Waitrose, but is cubed a little too small for such a long cooking dish and tends to fall apart. So if you can’t get a bigger piece of buffalo, go for a good piece of well-flavoured stewing beef. I bought mine from the same place I bought the delectably melty pork belly from the earlier recipe – The Ginger Pig on Askew Road. An incredibly impressive butchery I must say.

So what is rendang? It’s eaten all over Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. And like any ubiquitous dish, it has as many versions as people who cook it. And ALL of them will tell you that theirs is the true recipe passed down to them from generation to generation usually from the person that actually invented it. But like a pot of ‘Scouse’ or ‘Irish Stew’ it’s something you really should work on making your own.

I use a bits from various recipes and although I do think it benefits from a day or two in the fridge once I’ve made it, I don’t think I’ve ever made it the same way twice; Different brands of coconut milk reduce in odd ways, chilis vary in heat from month to month and sometimes I use all ginger if I don’t have any galangal. I don’t think it really matters except that you give it time, attention and a whole lot of love.

It’s the 6th taste you know…



Serves 4

  • 500g stewing beef, cut into large chunks
  • 3 banana shallots
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 fresh red chills (de-seeded or not depending on how much heat you want)
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger
  • 1/2 thumb sized piece of galangal
  • 1 pinkie size piece of fresh turmeric (or 1/2 teaspoon of powdered)
  • 2 tsp peanut or sunflower oil
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 lemon grass stalk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp tamarind water
  • 2 tins of coconut milk


  1. First make a curry paste by putting the shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, turmeric, and chilis in a mini blender with a little coconut milk.
  2. Next heat the oil in a wok or broad topped deep pan or sauteuse
  3. Add the paste and cook for a minute or two. Don’t let it burn.
  4. Next cut through the thickest part of the lemon grass stalk to create a hole. With the back of knife, bash the stalk to help release the flavour as it cooks.  Add this with the coconut milk, beef and the other aromats. It will look like you have a lot of liquid but don’t panic.
  5. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover with a splatter guard unless you have a wipe down kitchen and cook on the stove for 90 minutes to 2 hours giving it a stir every so often.
  6. After about 45 minutes you’ll notice it starting to stick on the bottom of the pan. This is what you’re looking for so don’t worry. After about another 20 minutes you’ll see the milk split completely and the coconut oil start to separate. Again, this is what you want to happen.
  7. Once the meat is tender, continue cooking until the gravy is clinging to the beef. Eventually it will start to fry. Taste and add salt if required. Now depending on how you like it, you can serve it with more or less gravy. The traditional way is to serve it almost dry but really it’s up to you. If you want to be really geeky, when it’s a ‘wet’ rendang, it’s called kalio. Don’t say I don’t teach you anything…

And that’s it for Indonesia…for the moment anyway.