Beef rendang

Beef rendang

Cooking from memory
Mark Roper

This is a Sumatran dish devised as a way of cooking tough buffalo meat by simmering it for hours in spices and coconut milk. At the end of the cooking process, the coconut milk will have released its oil content and begun to fry the tenderised meat pieces to a dark brown colour. Th e coconut itself has now become crusty and very tasty. That lengthy cooking process can be somewhat reduced by using more tender meat cuts, and the dish should finish as a dry dark curry. It keeps well and can be frozen.


Quantity Ingredient
80ml peanut oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
500g topside beef
5-6 salam leaves
or 2 bulbs lemongrass
or 5 kaffir lime leaves
400ml coconut milk
1 cup water or stock
1 tablespoon tamarind juice
palm sugar, to taste
hot chilli sauce or ground black pepper, to taste
salt, to taste

Basic paste (Bumbu)

Quantity Ingredient
3 garlic cloves
1cm thick slice ginger
5 candlenuts
1 tablespoon mild chilli paste

Curry powder

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon ground turmeric
hot water or stock


  1. To make the paste, pound the garlic, ginger, candlenuts and chilli paste using a mortar and pestle or a blender.
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the onion until it yellows and starts to look dry. Reduce the heat to low, add the paste and fry for 1–2 minutes, until the fragrance is released.
  3. Remove the fat and gristle from the beef and cut into large bitesize pieces. Add the pieces to the saucepan, coating them with the sauce.
  4. To make the curry powder, dry-fry the coriander seeds until fragrant and then grind them to a powder. Add the turmeric and mix with a little hot water to make a paste. Add the curry powder, salam leaves and coconut milk to the beef and simmer while stirring gently. Add water and simmer on a low heat until cooked, up to 4 hours.
  5. When the dish is almost dry, add the tamarind juice, palm sugar, hot chilli sauce and salt to taste. Stir continuously to prevent burning. Serve hot.
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