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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Indonesian Beef Rendang

Indonesian Beef Rendang 1

I've been eating a lot more Indonesian food in the past year than I have ever before. Largely because of Gourmet Pigs, of course. So it was inevitable that I eventually tried my hand at cooking something. I asked her to ask her mom for a beef rendang recipe, a sort of dry curry if you're unfamiliar with Indonesian food.

GP said I needed more chili peppers to my recipe, which makes it perfect for this month's Weekend Wokking CHILI PEPPER edition, as chosen by last month's hostess, Marija of Palachinka. I had most of the ingredients already at home, except for candlenuts and galangal, which I substituted with walnuts and ginger. I also added ground nutmeg and cinnamon, which were not part of her mom's recipe.


WC: What do candlenuts do for recipes? I've seen them in other Indonesian recipes but haven't tried.

GP: Hm. Oil? Or texture.
Nice aroma.

WC: I saw some at the San Gabriel Superstore. Haven't bought any yet because no recipe.

GP: The candlenut also gives it that yellowy color.

WC: I'm thinking the oil and aroma sounds right.
No turmeric huh?

GP: Not according to this recipe.

WC: My aunt makes something similar with lemongrass and coconut juice, not milk.
And only 1 stalk of lemongrass? Think, I'll have to adapt and add another. Bwhaha.

GP: Hahaha. Sure.

WC: I have everything except candlenuts and galangal. I don't much like galangal though. Maybe just stick to ginger.

GP: I've heard the next best thing to candlenut is cashew.
But I don't know... That just won't be rendang...

WC: 2 tblsp candlenuts. Think I can sub with walnuts?
Aroma? Oil? Smoothness?

GP: But... but...

Well, I completely bastardized GP's mom's rendang recipe and maybe my flavor is off, but I still liked it.

Indonesian Beef Rendang 2

Indonesian Beef Rendang
Adapted (completely bastardized) from Gourmet Pigs' mama's recipe, which I'm sure if I made in the proper quantities with all the proper ingredients would have tasted way better. :P

For 2 lbs of beef, you'll need:
2 lbs beef, cut into 2-inch chunks
6 shallots or 1 small red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2-inch knob ginger, sliced
1 tablet palm sugar or 1 tblsp brown sugar
2 tblsp candlenuts or cashews or raw macadamias or walnuts
1 to 4 tblsp sambal oelek or Tuong Ot Toi (Vietnamese Garlic Chili Sauce) or 2 fresh chili peppers
2 stalks lemongrass, 1 minced and 1 bruised for the pot
2 tsp salt
1 15-oz can Coconut Milk
6 Kaffir Lime Leaves, 4 for the pot, and 2 sliced thinly
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Cut 2 lbs beef into 2-inch chunks. Add to pot.

Grind 6 shallots or 1 small red onion, 4 garlic cloves, 1 stalk lemongrass, and 2 tblsp candlenuts or cashews or raw macadamias or walnuts. Add to pot.

Slice 2-inch knob ginger. Add to pot.

Bruise 1 stalk lemongrass. I just break the stalk every few inches to release the aroma. Add to pot.

Finely slice two kaffir lime leaves. Add the sliced leaves and four whole leaves to pot.

Add 1 tablet palm sugar or 1 tblsp brown sugar, 1 tblsp sambal oelek or Tuong Ot Toi (Vietnamese Garlic Chili Sauce) or 2 fresh chili peppers, 2 tsp salt, a 15-oz can of coconut milk, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon.

The ingredients look so pretty!

Indonesian Beef Rendang 3

Add everything to the pot and fill a 5- to 7-quart stock pot about half full with water. The extra room is needed as the oils in the rendang might splash as it starts cooking down. Simmer on medium-low with the lid off. This is an all-day affair.

Indonesian Beef Rendang 4

After about four hours, the rendang will look like this.

Indonesian Beef Rendang 5

Five hours later (OK, I might have turned it off and gone out and come back.), most of the liquid will be gone and the beef will be coated with a thick coconut sauce.

Indonesian Beef Rendang 6

I went another hour until all the liquid was gone. The beef will then start dry-frying in the pot. That's when it's ready.

Indonesian Beef Rendang 7

Serve with rice.

Indonesian Beef Rendang 8

Gourmet Pigs said it was good (Ha! Just trying to be polite.), but a bit too sweet (I decreased the amount of sugar I used when cooking for the recipe.) and just a bit off.

Darn those candlenuts!

I liked it just fine. Tender beef redolent with aromas of lemongrass and coconut.


I'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Wokking, a world-wide food blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks to celebrate the multiple ways we can cook one ingredient.

This month's secret ingredient is the CHILI PEPPER. The host for January is me! Check the chili pepper round-up for six recipes.

I use chili peppers in pretty much everything, but here are my straight-up chili sauce recipes:
Tuong Ot Toi (Vietnamese Garlic Chili Sauce)
Tuong Ot Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Chili Sauce)

1 year ago today, Chai Black Tea.
2 years ago today, French Bread Pizza.
3 years ago today, a cold frost decimated most of my garden, except for my iceberg roses and three strawberries.


  1. I was not just being polite! It was tender and tasty. It just needs to be a little spicier ;)

  2. LOL. I love the final line:
    "But... But... Flavor."

  3. Ha! What do you know - beef rendang is on the menu for this weekend's cookup :-)
    Going to use this for some guidance!

  4. Burumun,
    Ha! You lie! You didn't want any of the leftovers. :P

    Those darn candlenuts. They're going to haunt me until I buy them.

    Good luck! You're going to adapt an already mangled recipe. ;)

  5. I agree with Gourmet Pigs that rendang needs a little more heat. When I make a relatively mild rendang, I include 4 TBS sambal oelek if fresh chiles aren't available.
    Macadamia nuts are probably the best substitute for kemiri (candlenuts). I think they function like a roux, providing oil and starch which thickens while the sauce reduces.
    The whole point of cooking should be to turn out something that tastes good and you enjoy making. Authenticity is overrated; if it tastes good, enjoy it.

  6. Sijeleng,
    Four tablespoons! Egads! I thought the nuts would function as such and figured walnuts would do in a pinch. Macadamia nuts are expensive too! I liked my rendang so it was good enough for me. But then, I'm not Indonesian so my tastebuds aren't as particular. :P

  7. Made this last night (first time having Rendang) and was also a bit too mild for my tastes - upped the sambal oelek - probably also about 4tbsp in total, as well as added a bit more salt. I used cashews instead of the candlenuts and worked out quite well for me. Of course, not sure what the authentic version should taste like.

    My only "complaint" would be that this is an incredibly rich dish! Mine ended up swimming in oil. Don't know if I did something wrong. Perhaps I should use lowfat coconut milk next time?

  8. Marisa,
    4 tblsps! Man, you can take spicy. I think that would have been too much for me.

    It is a rich dish. The oil should separate from the coconut milk enough so that you can spoon out the meat part and leave the oil behind, but it is still pretty creamy and rich.

    Thanks for trying the recipe!

  9. If you are interested in authenticity (and I'm not saying you have to be), there are a couple of other ingredients to add which are pretty standard in Indonesia. However they are not necessarily easy to find unless you know of a grocery which caters to Indonesians.

    One is salam leaf (daun salam), which is sometimes labelled Indonesian bay leaf. It's nothing like a regular bay leaf though, flavour-wise, although it's used the same way. This is ever-present in Indonesian food.

    The other is turmeric leaf, which is also thrown whole into the pot. It's meant to be essential for rendang, but I don't usually use it and don't think I miss it.

    Oh and I would definitely use galangal rather than ginger, it's much more suitable. And macadamias are the best substitute for candlenuts, but honestly if you don't use any nuts, you probably won't notice the difference.

  10. Eurasian Sensation,
    I've definitely never heard of Indonesian bay leaf or turmeric leaf. Even the small Indonesian grocery stores here don't stock it. I wish!

    I've tried, but I just don't like galangal.

  11. This was just delish! I used candlenuts, galangal and my own roasted chilli paste and simply could not stop eating this curry. Amazingly aromatic and perfectly balanced flavours - will definately be made again! I served with a homemade tomato sambal on the side and it was just to die for. Thanks so much for posting your recipe.

  12. Beck,
    Awesome! Thanks for trying my recipe. Sometimes when I make alterations to recipes, it's nice to know other people like the results.


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