Beef Rendang


I had the best beef rendang I have ever tasted in New York about 10 years ago. I don’t know if it was authentic but it was incredible. The beef was fall-apart-amazing, the sauce was thick, almost dry but so fruity, spicy and deep. And – they served it with a few slices of cucumber.

You need a bit of time for this dish and you need to watch it. The sauce needs to thicken and coat the meat. That’s the important thing to nail with this dish.

This is how I tried to recreate it.

What you’ll need to feed 4

  • 750g steak suitable for slow cooking – shoulder or shin

For the curry paste:

  • 1 onion (I used red onion)
  • 1 tablespoon of peeled and chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of peeled and chopped fresh galangal
  • 1 bulb of garlic (not 1 clove – 1 whole bulb… get it in)
  • 3 sticks of lemon grass, outer skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

And then

  • 2 star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom pods
  • 1 can coconut milk

Roughly chop and mix the paste ingredients in a food processor or use a handheld. Give it time – if you’re having trouble getting the ingredients to “catch”, add a little more oil or even a spoonful of water or 2. Make sure the paste is well mixed.

Heat some oil in a large, thick-bottomed pan and fry the paste for a few minutes. At his point it might be quite a bright orange/yellow colour – this will darken with cooking.

Add the star anise, cinnamon and cardomom – fry a little longer.

Add the beef and coat in the paste allowing it to colour a little.

Add the coconut milk and the lime leaves. A twist of salt to help it on its way.

The meat will really need 2 1/2 to 3 hours to cook so I cooked it covered for the first half an hour just to get things moving. Some recipes I’ve read say to cook uncovered for the whole cooking but then I don’t think they cook the meat for long enough to achieve the fall-apart texture I love.

So – cook covered for 30 minutes on a heat enough for a slight bubble but nothing too extreme.

Uncover and cook for a couple of hours longer.

You’ll need to keep an eye on it. Give it a stir every so often – scrape those dark bits from the side of the pan into the sauce. You’re looking to achieve a thick, dark sauce that coats the meat – almost dry.

Once you’re happy with the meat and the sauce, take it off the heat and let it sit for few minutes. Now you can add a squeeze of lime and grate the zest of that lime into the curry as well.

Serve it with a few thickly sliced pieces of cucumber (if you want it exactly as I had it).

I think this could be my favourite curry. I love Thai food and I love Indian food but this really does it for me – it has the fragrance of Thai food but has the deeper flavours of Indian food and even mixes in the fruity flavours of southern Indian food.

Keep the rice simple with this dish. I really don’t think you want the rice overly flavoured – the sauce and the beef are the stars here.


  • Reply July 12, 2012

    Jill A.

    Delicious… have you tried this in a slow cooker?

  • Reply July 12, 2012

    John L

    Thanks – cooking meat like shin in the slow cooker is great and curries work well also but this dish needs to reduce to a thick, dry-ish paste so I think you really need to cook it on the hob, uncovered for most of the cooking.

  • Reply July 21, 2012


    Looks lovely. I became completely obsessed with rendang last year, to the point where I was ordering Indonesian ingredients off an American website to match recipes I’d translated from Indonesian blogs. Best one I managed was with beef skirt rather than my usual beef shin, really must make it again. The photography on your blog is outstanding btw.

    • Reply July 21, 2012

      John L

      Thanks – glad you like the site. Yes – when you cook it you wonder why you don’t cook it all the time. It’s the way the sauce thickens at the end and you end up with a beautiful rich paste but still with the spice and fruity fragrance tones. It’s an incredible dish..

      Hmm.. may have to cook it again this week.

      • Reply July 21, 2012

        John L

        Hey, Stef – just realised you run the website I was looking at last night – there’s some good stuff on your site, good work.

        Funny I was only reading it last night – small world and all that.

        • Reply July 22, 2012


          Yeah, that’s how I found you, saw you’d come from Hank Shaw’s site and got the link from there. It’s great the little discoveries you can make online!

  • Reply August 10, 2012


    I love eating Malaysian food and this has to be the best-looking rendang I’ve seen! The colour and texture of the curry looks perfect, so I’m eager to try it (whether it’s authentic or not!). Kudos to you for re-creating a restaurant dish and sharing it here with us.

    • Reply August 10, 2012

      John L

      Cheers.. It’s one of those dishes that, each time you cook, you’ll do slightly differently trying new things out.

      I cooked it again last week but made loads so we had it the day after as well. It’s even better left a day or so and then re-heated. In fact, if you do have the time, I’d always recommend making it the day before and letting it sit there to mature and allow the beef to really take on all the flavour.

  • Reply August 11, 2012


    What a great ‘selling’ point~~ make ahead and savour :D I love learning little tips like this!

  • Reply August 12, 2012

    Rendang Connection

    Nice blog!

    Rendang is one of the most popular dishes from Padang, West Sumatra. Padang is known by their delicious meals made from coconut milk. You can make it spicy or mild, depend how you like it. :)

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