February 01, 2014

Malaysian Rendang

Rendang ist a wonderfully spicy meat stew, originally from Indonesia, but which has traveled well and evolved a number of delicious, location-specific permutations. I've made both Indonesian and Malaysian versions in the past, but there are also Indian, Thai, and Philippine versions to be had. It is classed as a "dry curry" based on the volume of liquid in the finished dish being on the low side, although mine here is a little wetter looking than it might otherwise be, as I didn't use quite the prescribed amount of meat.

The steps in this recipe are fairly simple, especially if you are using ground spices and/or have a processor or mini-prep to help. However, even in my (currently) low tech kitchen, it was pretty easy. I used a mortar and pestle for the whole spices that I had on hand, and also to pound the onions. A less messy alternative for grating/pulping the onions and ginger is the microplane grater, of course. Choose one a little larger than you would use to zest a lemon, say one you would use for somewhat coarsely grated parmesan. A box grater is not ideal for this, because its holes are variously too big or two small, but it will do in a pinch.

The prep is all up front, and then you can leave it alone to simmer on low heat, or in an an oven at 150 C / 300 F for a couple of hours (it would also work in a crockpot), while you relax with a refreshing beverage.

Malaysian Rendang
Adapted from The Essential Asian Cookbook

Serves 4-6 as part of a rice based meal.

900 grams chuck steak, cubed
2 medium yellow onions
4 cloves garlic
3-5 long red chile peppers, seeded
1/2 inch piece of ginger root, grated
400 millilitres coconut milk
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1-2 large strips of lemon zest, pith removed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate

Finely grate the onion and garlic, and finely chop or puree the red chiles. You can do this in a food processor with a couple of tablespoons of the coconut milk if you like, pulsing until it becomes a sort of paste.

In a dutch oven, or other large, heavy pot, heat the peanut oil until just shimmering. Add the onion paste along with the dry spices, lemon rind, and meat. Stir until the meat is thoroughly coated with the spices, and then add the remaining coconut milk. Simmer over low heat for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender and the liquid has mostly disappeared into a thick gravy.

Once the meat is tender, and the oil starts to separate from the gravy (you will see it start to form little tiny pools on top of the gravy), add the lemon juice, the sugar, and the tamarind, and stir it gently through. Serve with steamed rice. Curry-roasted cauliflower makes a great side.

You will note that this recipe does not call for salt. It may not need any. Taste it after you've added the tamarind, and decide if you would like to add a little salt to the dish as a whole, or simply allow individuals to adjust their own servings accordingly.

Bonus: This tastes even better the next day, so if you want to make it for a potluck or dinner party, it's easy to knock it out the day before, and then just gently re-heat the next day, while you set about the rice and any other condiments. It also freezes very well for up to about a month.

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