: Rendang Daging (tender beef in spicy coconut gravy)


I do try to limit the amount of meat I eat. But this dish is the reason I could never ever give up red meat.

I present to you Rendang Daging. This dish is rooted in Indonesian cuisine, but it is enjoyed in Malaysia and Singapore and throughout that whole region.

To explain it to someone who has never had it I would say, firstly, don’t judge it by it’s looks. It is not the most appealing dish to look at. To the naked eye, it’s just a mess of meat (beef or lamb) and coconut gravy. You may be put off by how it appears. My eldest daughter took it to school once to have her friends scowl at it and declare she had “dog vomit in her lunch”. Kids are sweet.

Once you smell it however, you get the feeling like whoa!! there’s a bunch of layers of tastes and aromas coming from there! I don’t know how to explain the flavour except that it drop kicks every taste bud…salty, sweet, sour, bitter…it’s got it all. Add to that the complex richness of coconut gravy that has permeated every nook and cranny of that beef which was slowly cooked for hours. Done right, the tender beef will fall apart once your fork disturbs it,kind of resembling pulled meat.

This is the one dish from my husband’s heritage I can make from memory. This is my family’s recipe which I share with you. We make it 2 or 3 times a year. It is not 100% authentic because some of the ‘exotic’ ingredients, such as galangal and kaffir lime leaf, are difficult to get here in eastern Canada. Regardless, it is AMAZING. Rendang was voted as #1 most delicious dish in all  the world by CNN travel.

Nasi Goreng, also from Indonesia, was voted #2… But that will be another post.

Rendang is even better the next day. Also, don’t waste any of the gravy! Not even a drop. That stuff is liquid gold, and there’s nothing better than mopping it up with a crusty roll, or piece of naan bread. My husband once used the leftover sauce as a burger topping. That was a killer burger.

It’s my family’s go to dish for special occasions. We make it during holidays, birthdays, or to honour special guests at our table. It’s very decadent throughout those parts of Asia. If it’s served to you, consider yourself spoiled and honoured. They only make it for the most special occasions, such as weddings or home-coming dinners. The weddings in Indonesia are very opulent. The food must also reflect the importance of such a grand day.

Javanese wedding couple. Photo credit to Juergen's photostream, Flickr

Beautiful Javanese bride and groom. Photo credit to Flickr, Juergen’s photostream.

Please try this for yourself. I hope you enjoy it, and along with us, count it as one of your favourite meals!


2 lb stewing beef, cut into small pieces

*Grind the following:

2 lemon grass, just the bulb ends, sliced
5 shallots, sliced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
thumb-size ginger, sliced
3 tbsp sambal oelek or 2 fresh red chili pepper (I remove seeds from one pepper)

4 tbsp coriander powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 can coconut milk

4 tbsp brown sugar

3 tbsp dark soya sauce 

2 kaffir lime leaves (if you can get them)

4 tbsp unsweetened, flaked coconut, lightly browned in dry skillet



Grind the wet spices. Heat oil in large wok or deep skillet and add the wet ground spices with the dry spices. Fry until fragrant. Add meat and fold into the spices in pan, mixing well. Cook, over medium heat,until meat no longer looks raw.




Reduce heat to medium-low and add in the soy sauce,lime leaves, and brown sugar. Stir well.

sweet and salty comes in with addition of brown sugar and soy sauce

sweet and salty comes in with addition of brown sugar and soy sauce

Pour in coconut milk and reduce the heat to low (number 2 on the dial).

before the coconut gravy thickens...

before the coconut gravy thickens…

Cover and cook, stirring on occasion, for 2-3 hours, until gravy is dark and thick or almost entirely absorbed by the meat. It depends on personal preference. I like to turn off the heat at around the 2 and a half hours mark, thus retaining some gravy. However, traditionally the meat is cooked until nearly dry (this takes longer than 3 hours).

Traditional rendang, cooked until nearly dry

Traditional rendang, cooked until nearly dry. Photo courtesy Jasmin Kitchen.


gravy is done when it’s thick and dark



Sprinkle on the toasted coconut and serve with steamed rice such as basmati or jasmine. Serves 6.