In 2011 CNN International viewers voted Beef Rendang the Top among “The World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods”
A culinary presentation unique to the Minangkabau ethnic group of West Sumatera
is a spicy Indonesian beef dish originally prepared for special festive occasions. Today, however, its popularity has spread across the country and can easily be found in any Padang
Restaurant all throughout Indonesia.
Rendang has also become a favorite dish in neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore, Brunei, the Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand, and even as far as Australia, Europe and the United States.
Although some consider Rendang to be a curry, and others a stew, real, authentic Rendang is nothing like either of the above. If you have not yet had the pleasure, the complex flavours of Rendang could only be described as a tender, savoury, dry beef stew, layered in the rich spices of lemongrass and ginger, with a burst of chilli and immersed in creamy coconut milk.Ultimately though, you’ll have to taste it for yourself.
In the Minangkabau tradition, Rendang was served to honoured guests, and on ceremonial occasions such as births, weddings, Al Quran recitals, and much more. In the Minangkabau culture, Rendang also has spiritual connotations since the four main ingredients symbolize each essential part of Minangkabau society. Meat, as the elders and nobles. Coconut as the teachers, poets and writers. Chilli as the religious leaders. The hotness representing the strictness of religious law. And the spices as everyone else.
In the days before refrigeration, when wealthy Minangkabau farmers slaughtered a cow for a feast, it was often made into Rendang. Garlic, ginger and shallots, some of the main spices used in in the dish, are known to have strong anti-microbial properties and therefore serve as preservatives. If cooked properly, the rich spices and low moisture of the dish will ensure that the meat will stay good for up to four weeks, despite the country’s tropical heat. And yet another point that must be mentioned – the taste only improves with time.
For the culinarians out there, itching to give this dish a try, bear in mind that it’s not your everyday beef stew that can be cooked up in a few moments. Au contraire, concocting this explosively flavourful dish demands a great deal of patience, several cooking techniques, and the better part of four hours.
First, an assortment of aromatic spices are ground into a thick paste, which is then fried to bring out the flavours. Next, the meat is slowly cooked in coconut milk and the spices on very low heat, allowing the meat to tenderize and absorb the seasonings. As the liquid slowly evaporates, the cooking process is changed from a boil to a fry in the oil released by the meat during the boiling stage. The meat must be carefully stirred and monitored, so as not to be burnt or ruined until all the liquid and spices are absorbed perfectly. This technique is known as caramelizing, but using coconut milk in the place of sugar. This creates an extraordinarily flavoured coating around each piece of beef, giving it a delicious and unparalleled taste.
Rendang is usually served with steamed rice, boiled cassava leaves, young jackfruit and sambal.
For the complete recipe