Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Beef Rendang

This is one of my all-time favourite winter comfort food. It's rich, spicy, flavourful, and very Southeast Asian. Like our adobo, there are a lot of variations on it as there are households. But from what I can gather, the essential ingredients besides the meat are the spices (onion, curry leaves, curry powder, turmeric, and chili pepper) and the coconut milk. All the other ingredients are fair game to the diversity of adaptations. And when I say lots of variations that means you will see more versions of this particular dish that I will experiment on and will invariably be seen in this food blog sometime later. In the next decade perhaps? ;)

I love the resulting sauce in it (eaten with lots of hot steamed rice) after a long stew. According to my Malaysian friend, people in the northern parts of Malaysia and Indonesia cook it until the sauce dries out and the meat is fried in the rendered oil from the sauce. This they say is primarily done to preserve the meat and not spoil easily. Believe me, I tried this once and it was superb! It's wonderfully good with some white fluffy bread with some lettuce and cucumber stuck in.

This recipe is adapted from an old Asian cookbook in the Bromley Library which I forgot to write down the name. In fact, the title of the recipe in the book was 'Dry-Fried Beef Curry'. The instruction was to cook until dry but I love the sauce very much that I put in the option of not doing this if preferred.

Tamarind liquid is used here. You can make this two ways: first by diluting tamarind paste with water; secondly by soaking about 1 Tablespoon (add more or less depending on the sourness you want) of tamarind pulp in 1/2 cup of hot water for about 15 minutes then strain the liquid through a sieve and discarding the pulp. The tamarind pulp I get here in the UK are all in rectangular block shape. While in the Philippines (well at least in our barrio), it is formed into balls and are called tipe (ti-pe). My lola (grandma) used to always ask me to buy some from the corner sari-sari store whenever we have pinangat na isda (stewed fresh fish) for our meal. We make tamarind liquid with it which is then mixed with either our home-made patis (fish sauce) or heko - the scum skimmed from the boiling talyase (big wok) of liquid during patis-making. Yumm-mmy !

Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang

1 kg  stewing beef - cut into serving sizes
2 medium onion - chopped
6 fat cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp chopped ginger
2-3 fresh red chillies - stalk and seeds removed
2 tsp sea salt
2 cups [400 g] coconut cream or thick coconut milk
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp chili powder (optional)
2 tsp ground coriander
6 curry leaves
1 stem fresh lemon grass
1 tsp galangal or ginger powder
1/2 cup tamarind liquid
2 tsp sugar
  1. Place garlic, onion, ginger, fresh chillies, and 1/2 cup of the coconut cream in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
  2. Put in a wide mouthed casserole. Wash out the blender with the remaining coconut cream and add to the casserole.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients except tamarind liquid and sugar.
  4. Bring to boil then add the tamarind liquid. Lower heat to low and simmer until meat is tender (about 1.5 hours) while stirring from time to time.
  5. By this time, the sauce would be reduced and thick. Add the sugar, stir and cook for about 2 minutes more.
  6. Dish up and serve with hot steamed rice.

*Note: If you decide to do the dry-fry version:
  • Cook this uncovered. When the sauce gets too dry add a little water just prevent it burning before the meat is tender.
  • Continue simmering until almost dry. Stir often.
  • When oil separates from the gravy, stir in the sugar. Allow the meat to fry in the oily gravy until dark brown while stirring constantly.