Every now & again .. it sure is fun
to make a project recipe
Those best saved for long weekends or lazy Sundays when I'm not in a rush. It's wonderful to linger in the kitchen with the puppies underfoot .. a glass of wine .. and turn out a recipe that requires special ingredients .. a different process .. or bit more time & attention.
Last month while The Chef was traveling .. I picked one from my wish list .. as a way to pass an an afternoon .. the final product tucked away in the freezer. So it was wonderful this evening .. to surprise him with with a restaurant quality meal .. served atop long grain brown rice that had been simmered in Magic Mineral Broth
“Wait .. what is this again?”
Rendang is arguably the most famous of Malaysian beef dishes .. considered one of the most flavorful curries in the world. If you're a curry fan .. this is a must-try. Unlike many that involve a rempah (spice paste) .. this one isn't caramelized .. used instead as a marinade & simmered until the meat is tender and the sauce has been reduced.
To be blunt .. this dish is a lot of work .. a multi-step process that takes the better part of 3 hours .. a with an awful lot of blending or stirring.
It's a recipe that evolves .. as one methodically constructs .. an extremely intense .. multi-level flavor profile. There is a spice-infused oil .. an intense mix of dry ground spices .. not to mention a spicy “flavor base” .. and that's before you even start cooking the rendang
Note to self .. it just MIGHT be worth it
A few words about the ingredients ..
Surprisingly .. most of the spices were already in our pantry .. even the tamarind concentrate (one doesn't have a cooking blog for nothing)
Don't skimp on the lemon grass .. it adds a surprising amount of zing
This dish is incredible .. it really is .. especially if one takes the time to source the ingredients & fully commit to the process. There's so much complexity of flavor going on .. sweet .. sour .. savory .. salty .. bitter .. funky .. not to mention spicy .. all in one bite
The complex & aromatic mix of spices is difficult to describe. It's outstanding .. and really unlike anything we'd ever tasted before. How often can you say that about a recipe?
~ Adapted from Fine Cooking | April 2012 .. here
Malaysian Beef Rendang
- Flavor Base
- 6-8 Thai Bird-eye chilies ** the original calls for 15 dried japones chiles or 10 dried chiles de árbol or 3 Tbs. sambal oelek
- 1-1/2 cups sliced shallots
- 2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh ginger peeled & sliced
- 1 1/4 Tbsp galangal fresh or frozen, chopped fine
- 1/4 cup water
- Whole Spice Blend
- 4 whole cloves
- 4 whole green cardamom pods
- 2 whole star anise
- 1 3- inch-long cinnamon stick snapped in half
- Ground Spice Blend
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground fennel seeds
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 4 Tbsp coconut oil divided
- 1/2 cup olive oil ** the original called for 3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 2 lbs sirloin steak cut into 1 1/2 to 2" pieces
- 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk, unsweetened
- 1/4 cup tamarind concentrate
- 4 wild lime leaves
- 2 medium lemongrass stalks bruised with the back of knife and tied in a knot
- 4 tsp coconut sugar ** or organic dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup grated fresh coconut packed tight (** or unsweetened frozen coconut, thawed)
- 4 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)
- Lime wedges for garnish (optional)
- Flavor Base
- Into a food processor, add the flavor base ingredients .. and process into a coarse purée, ~ 2-3 minutes
- Spice Blends
- In a small bowl, combine Whole Spice Blend spices.
- In a second small bowl, combine Ground Spice Blend spices
- Toasted Coconut
- In the meantime, prepare the coconut by first squeezing excess liquid and then toasting in a 10 inch skillet .. over low heat .. stirring constantly .. until golden brown (~ 10 minutes)
- Transfer to a small bowl.
- Heat coconut oil in a 12-inch skillet or wok over medium-low heat until shimmering hot.
- Add the whole spice blend and heat 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly being careful not to let the spices burn. The cinnamon sticks may unfold .. as well as the cardamom may also crack open
- Add the other 2 Tbs. coconut oil .. along with the ground spice blend and heat (~30-60 seconds), stirring constantly, until the mix sizzles and becomes fragrant.
- (** Note: if the spices stick to the pan, add a little more oil to prevent burning)
- Add the olive oil to the flavor base and cook .. stirring frequently .. until the purée is an intense reddish-brown color (~10 minutes)
- Raise the heat to medium .. add the sirloin pieces .. and cook about 2 minutes. (Stirring, to coat the beef in the spices)
- Add the coconut milk, tamarind concentrate, lime leaves, and lemongrass .. stirring constantly .. until the mix comes to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low, add the sugar and salt, and allow to simmer .. stirring occasionally for an hour
- Into the second & third hours of simmering .. increase the stirring frequency as the stew begins to thicken. Simmer until the liquid is very thick and oil has appeared on its surface, (~ 1-3/4 additional hours)
- ** Note: The meat will not be fork-tender at this point.
- Add the toasted coconut to the stew and then continue stirring until it's incorporated and much of the liquid has been absorbed (~ 15 minutes)
- At this point .. add up to 1 cup of water if you prefer a saucy consistency.
- Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is fork-tender, 20 to 30 minutes more (the oil will start to froth after 15 to 20 min).
- Remove the lemongrass, cinnamon pieces, star anise, and as many cardamom pods and cloves as you can find.
- Transfer the meat to a serving platter .. garnishing with cilantro and lime wedges (if using).
- Make Ahead Tips
- Beef Rendang will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator, but expect it to become drier and more intense as it sits.
- It also freezes beautifully