The recent fiery debate over rendang made me change my weekend plans to cook the dish. The waves of pleasure from each spoonful of the meat that had been slow simmered in spices made the sacrifice worth it.
I want to thank MasterChef UK judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode for putting rendang in the international spotlight and reminding everyone how great it is, after their "not crispy" verdict for Malaysia-born contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpin's chicken rendang sparked an online row.
The way I see it, #rendanggate turned out to be a win-win for everyone. Olpin got booted off the show, but the publicity garnered her brisk business at the supper club she runs in Bristol.
Last year, I introduced a recipe for chicken rendang. (Find it online at www.tnp.sg)
However, I still prefer beef rendang. I find it more flavourful as beef takes longer to cook, allowing the flavours to better penetrate the meat.
So I looked up a recipe given to me by the late Madam Tumiar Simandijuntak, who was of Batak ethnicity and originally from Medan in Sumatra.
In 2012, I spent a wonderful afternoon watching her cook the dish. She insisted on preparing it from scratch, right down to squeezing coconut milk by hand. In memory of her, I felt compelled to use fresh ingredients which meant queueing for freshly grated coconut at my neighbourhood wet market.
I updated the recipe with more citrus and tamarind juice, and I followed the advice from the coconut and spice stall owner to steep the grated coconut in hot water before extracting the milk.
As I did not fancy watching the fire, I used a slow cooker, which did a good job simmering the beef.
I am happy to report that the only thing remotely crispy about my beef rendang is the extra garnish of toasted grated coconut.
- 600g fresh white grated coconut
- 250ml of hot water
- 5 red finger chillies, soaked
- 10 dried chillies
- 10 shallots (150g)
- 5 garlic cloves (50g)
- 30g galangal, chopped
- 30g old ginger, chopped
- 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of ground coriander
- 4 stalks of lemongrass (use only 7cm of the root part)
- 3 tbsp cooking oil or coconut oil
- 6 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 daun kunyit (turmeric leaf)
- 1kg of beef (chuck tender), cut into 8cm x 8cm x 3cm pieces
- 2 pieces of asam keping (sour fruit)
- 2 tbsp of tamarind mixed with 4 tbsp of water (strain and reserve the tamarind juice)
1. Place 400g of grated white coconut into a pot. Add the hot water and leave it to cool to room temperature.
2. Squeeze the coconut mixture with a muslin cloth to extract the milk. Discard the used coconut. Refrigerate the milk.
3. Heat a wok or pan, fry the remaining 200g of grated coconut over low heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Do not use oil. Browning should take around 30 minutes . Remove the toasted grated coconut, allow it to cool before blending till fine. Set aside 3tbsp for use later. Store excess in a glass jar and refrigerate.
4. To prepare the rempah or spice paste, grind the red chillies, dried chillies, shallots, garlic, galangal, old ginger and lemongrass together. Use a little water or coconut oil if you are using a blender.
5. Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a pan. On low heat, fry the rempah until it browns and gives off a strong aroma.
6. Add the kaffir lime leaves and daun kunyit .
7. Then add the beef and fry until the beef is coated with the rempah.
8. Add the coconut milk and 1 tsp of salt , and the ground coriander.
9. Add the asam keping and tamarind juice. Cover and bring to a simmer.
10. Transfer to a slow cooker and cook on high heat for two hours, stirring occasionally.
11. Lower the heat to low and simmer for another 30 minutes.
12. Add in 3 tbsp of the toasted grated coconut and stir thoroughly. Serve hot with rice.
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