Rendang

A traditional West Sumatran dish

This dish is from the district in West Central Sumatra known as Minangkabau.

Minangkabau means ‘Victorious Buffalo’, and indeed the people of the area eat buffalo meat more often than beef, for cows are scarce. Buffalo meat is delicious but very tough, so Rendang is cooked for an unusually long time. Once cooked, it will keep, in an airtight jar, for up to a month, even in a tropical climate. But buffalo meat, apart from being tough, is hard to come by in most western countries, and beef is a very fair substitute for it. As it takes so long to cook, and keeps so well, it is worth making a large quantity.

Ingredients

  • kg ( lb) brisket or good stewing steak
  • 6 shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp laos (galingale)
  • cups (3 pints) santen from 2 small coconuts, made very thick
  • 1 salam leaf or bay-leaf
  • 1 fresh daun kunyit (turmeric leaf—optional)

Method

Cut the meat into biggish cubes. Crush the shallots and garlic with some salt; add ginger, turmeric, chilli, and laos. Mix them and put them into the santen. Add the meat and the various leaves. Cook in a wok, letting the mixture bubble gently and stirring it occasionally until it becomes very thick. This should take 1½ to 2 hours. Taste, and add salt if necessary. When the mixture is thick, the slow cooking must continue, but now the meat and sauce must be stirred continuously until all the sauce has been absorbed into the meat and the meat itself has become a good golden brown. This will take at least half an hour, perhaps as much as 1½ hours. Serve the Rendang hot, with plain boiled rice or Nasi Ketan.

Rendang will keep for many months in a deep-freeze; even though it contains santen, this becomes oil in the course of cooking and will not go bad.