First thing I have to say is that rendang is not Singaporean, it's not Malaysian, it is Indonesian, and to be very specific, it is from the Padang area of Sumatra. How do I know? Ask my born and bred Padang mum-in-law, who makes the best rendang I have tasted. Period.
Still, we love it so much, we've embraced it completely and given it a special place in our hearts and bellies. Today, I won't be sharing my mum-in-law's recipe with you (come on, are you kidding? Sure she loves me, but she don't love me that much) but a scrumptious and simpler version I taught my 13 year-old boy to cook.
The only challenge that cooking this presents, to me at least, is reaching that state of rendang nirvana, where the chunks of beef are tender yet remain whole, and are so completety suffused with the intoxicating aroma of coconut and fragrant herbs, that breaking open a piece of meat is like smashing a bottle of perfume, only better!
Rendang is not usually cooked as an everyday sort of meal because there is no way around the patient, dedicated three hour simmering to be able to reach said state. Add to that, the rather complicated rempah (spice paste) which usually includes at least a dozen ingredients and you understand why when locals find a perfectly cooked rendang at a nasi padang (Indonesian rice and cooked food) stall, it's like finding a pot of gold; I know friends who keep such finds secret. Only a another Singaporean would understand....
The other alternative is to wait with crossed fingers, for a Hari Raya (Eid) invitation from Muslim friends, but oh, the agony of a year long wait! Fair warning - here's the recipe that will probably have you eating rendang a bit more often. Don't go crazy and land yourself in a cardiologist's waiting room now. *yikes*
Prep 35 mins Cook 3 1/2 hrs Serves 6 - 8
12 fresh red chillies, seeded and cut
3 large onions, peeled and cut
8 large cloves garlic, peeled
4 stalks lemongrass, discard outer leaves, cut off top half and bash bottoms
3 cm length galangal (lengkuas or blue ginger) peel and bash
2 kgs boneless beef brisket, shin (shank) or silverside, cut into 4 cm chunks, thoroughly drained
500 ml (2 1/2 cups) coconut milk
1 L (5 cups) water
1 small slice tamarind (asam keping or asam gelugur)
8 large makrut or kaffir lime leaves (daun limau purut or daun jeruk)
1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp sugar
Combine chillies, onion and garlic and pound or process to a smooth paste.
Heat 6 tablespoons oil in a large pot or wok (easier to stir the rendang in) and fry the lemongrass and galangal for half a minute or until fragrant.
Add the spice paste and fry, stirring often, until fragrant and oil separates from the paste.
Add beef chunks and stir over high heat until evenly browned.
Pour in coconut milk and stir well. Bring to the boil and cook until coconut milk has reduced and oil seeps out. Add the water, stir and bring back to the boil.
Lower heat, add tamarind slice and lime leaves, cover pot or wok and simmer until meat is tender but not falling apart, and gravy is very thick and oily. Keep stirring and turning the beef chunks over to prevent burning, especially when the gravy starts to thicken and becomes oily.
Add salt and sugar and stir well. Turn off heat and dish out rendang. The beef should be tender yet in whole pieces and thickly coated with the rempah (spices) and oil.
Serve with white rice, nasi lemak (coconut rice), nasi minyak (ghee rice) or nasi kunyit (turmeric rice), serundeng (spicy grated coconut) and acar (pickle) or cucumber slices.
*just kidding mama - I know you love me, and don't worry, your recipe is safe with me ;) *