As you know from the majority of my blog posts, I'm a lover of southeast Asian cuisine. What can beat coconut milk, lemongrass and pungent spices? I particularly like coconut milk-based curries, which are found throughout the region.
When I was in Malaysia, my friends took me to an Indonesian restaurant. I had had Indonesian food just once -- in Curacao. It made a wonderful impression, so I was excited to eat Indonesian food again. There were a few dishes that I still recall from that Kuala Lumpur restaurant. The beef rendang was definitely at the stop of the list. It uses tougher cuts of beef -- such as chuck -- and cooks it slowly in coconut milk, wet spice paste, and ground spices that make a rich, dark, highly aromatic curry. The coconut milk absorbs into the beef, which is cooked over a period of a few hours and becomes dry. The texture is very different from what you'd find with more traditional beef stews, as there really isn't any gravy. I served it with boiled white rice.
I found that the dish was even better the second day after the aromatic spices seeped more deeply into the beef.
I've been cooking a lot from the essential Asian cookbook, published by bay books, which is where I found this recipe. The cookbook also has a recipe for Malaysian beef rendang, which calls for tamarind pulp. I'm still scouring Asian food shops to find it! When I do, you can be sure that I'll try that recipe, too.
3 lbs. chuck steak
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
4 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 2/3 cups coconut milk
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 red chilies, chopped
1 stem lemongrass (white part only) or 4 strips lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated palm sugar or soft brown sugar
1. Trim the meat of any fat and sinew, and cut it evenly into small (about 1 1/4 inch) cubes.
2. Place the onion and garlic in a blender or food processor and process until smooth, adding water if necessary.
3. Place the coconut milk in a large pan and bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until the milk has reduced by half and the oil has separated out. Do not allow the milk to brown.
4. Add the coriander, fennel, cumin and cloves and stir for 1 minute.
Cumin is a key ingredient in the cuisines of both Malaysia and Indonesia.
5. Add the meat and cook onion mixture,
chili, lemon grass, lemon juice and sugar.
6. Cook, over moderate heat for about 2 hours, or until the liquid is reduced and the mixture is quite thick. Stir frequently to prevent catching on the bottom of the pan.
7. Continue cooking until the oil from the coconut milk begins to emerge again, letting the curry develop colour and flavor. The dish needs constant attention at the is stage to prevent it from burning. The curry is cooked when it is brown and dry.