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Rendang (Beef Rendang)

Posting Date: 09/24/15

Rendang (Beef Rendang)

Rendang (Beef Rendang) is one of my favorite Indonesian food because the beef is full of flavor and so tender, almost like it melts in your mouth. It is very famous in Indonesia and other neighboring countries, Singapore and Malaysia. I first learned how to make it after I lived out of the country and missed the dish. I sometimes shared this dish during lunch with my non-Indonesian co-workers. It smelled really good when I warmed it in the microwave and they wanted to know about the dish. All of them really liked it and I am sure you will like it, too unless you are a vegetarian or cannot eat beef. For anyone who cannot beef, Indonesians have chicken version of rendang, called Rendang Ayam (Chicken Rendang).

The dish originated from Minangkabau ethnic in Padang, Sumatra. The ethnic Minangkabau is known for their desire to always better themselves and thus, they are willing to move outside their area and settle in other cities, islands, and countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia, etc. That’s how this dish got famous in Singapore and Malaysia. Once it made it there, there is a local version of it in the adopted country. The original version of it is dry and has no liquid. This dish can last for a long time which was useful when first started since there was no refrigeration system at the time. Thus, the cooking method was used as a way to preserve the meat captured during their hunting.

It takes about 2.5-4 hours to make it but it tastes so heavenly and thus, it is definitely worth the time and effort. Do not try to do a short cut when cooking it. It takes at least 2.5 hours to make it so that the meat will be tender. I tried to cut down the time couple times by cooking it uncovered at medium heat and thus, it only took about 2 hours to make it. What I learned is the cooking time and the temperature makes the different. The meat will not be tender if you cook less than 2.5 hours. This is a slow and low type of cooking technique. I assure you that it is worth the time and effort.

Another thing I learned is the cooking time is also dependent on the brand of coconut milk used. Some brands use more liquid to make coconut milk and thus, it takes longer for the liquid to start evaporating and the oil to come out and replace the liquid. Brands that use less liquid have the oil come out faster and thus, shorter time to evaporate the liquid. It also has more oil and thus, it fries the beef longer. This is actually a good thing because it makes the beef more tender and flavorful.

Rendang always gets better with time and thus, you can make a big portion and save the remaining in the fridge to savor it for the next couple days. I normally make enough for 3-5 days. This makes all the time and effort really worthwhile.

Rendang is always good to serve with rice because rice will soak up all the flavor. I also serve it with slices of cucumber and tomato because it adds some freshness and cut the richness of rendang.

The dish serves about 6 people.


  • For spice paste: 3 lemongrass stem (white part only, green part is not used), roughly chopped
  • For spice paste: 8 shallots, roughly chopped. They don't need to be finely chopped since they will be processed in food processor.
  • For spice paste: 6 cloves of garlic, chopped. They don't need to be finely chopped since they will be processed in food processor.
  • For spice paste: 1.5 inch piece of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • For spice paste: 4 kaffir lime leaves (can be substituted with 1 teaspoon of lime zests if unavailable)
  • For spice paste: 1.5 tsp turmeric powder
  • For spice paste: 1 teaspoon sambal oelek (adjust quantity according to your preference: hot or mild) or 1 tsp of red chili flakes or 1 jalapeno pepper (remove rib and seeds if you don't like it hot. I use Huy Fong brand for sambal oelek since they don't add shrimp paste or garlic to it and thus, I got the chili pepper I need without any other flavors I don't want.
  • 3 lbs of beef (brisket or chuck)
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cocounut oil (can be substituted with vegetable oil)
  • Pinch of pepper


  1. Put the spices (shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, sambal oelek or jalapeno) in a food processor. Grind them until smooth.
  2. Cut the beef into cubes of 0.75 inch size.
  3. Put coconut oil on a pot and heat the oil on medium heat.
  4. Stir fry the spices until aromatic.
  5. Add beef to the pot and stir fry it until it becomes brown on all sides.
  6. Add bay leaves and pour in coconut milk. Make sure the beef is fully covered with the coconut milk. Cook covered in medium low heat for 1.5 to 2 hours (until you start seeing oil coming out from the liquid). The length of the time to start seeing the oil is dependent on the brand of coconut milk you use. Some brands put more liquid to make coconut milk and thus, it takes longer for the oil to come out.
  7. Once you see oil coming out, stir it from time to time to make sure the bottom will not get burned. Add salt, pepper, and sugar and taste it. Add more salt, pepper, and sugar if needed.
  8. Cook it uncovered until all liquid has evaporated and stir it from time to time. Once all liquid has evaporated, the beef will start frying in coconut oil.
  9. Stir the beef during frying to make sure it will not burn. Keep cooking it until the oil is gone and beef becomes brown.
  10. Discard bay leaves. Serve rendang on top of warm rice. You can add sunny side egg to go with the beef rendang. You can also serve it with slices of cucumber and tomato to add freshness since the beef is very rich.

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