Beef Rendang, The Most Delicious Food From Indonesia

Beef Rendang

Rendang originates from the Sumatran region which originated from the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia. One of the earliest written records of rendang is from the early 16th century (Hikayat Amir Hamzah). The making of rendang spreads from Minangkabau region to Mandailing, Riau, Jambi, across the strait to Malacca and Negeri Sembilan, resulting in a variety of rendang traditions.

One of the characteristic foods of Minangkabau culture, it is served at ceremonial occasions and to honour guests. Rendang is traditionally prepared by the Minangkabau community during festive occasions such as traditional ceremonies, wedding feasts and Hari Raya (Eid al-Fitr).

Rendang has been claimed that the four main ingredients represent Minangkabau society as a whole:

  1. The meat (dagiang) symbolises the Niniak Mamak, the traditional clan leaders such as the datuk, the nobles, royalty and revered elders.
  2. The coconut milk (karambia) symbolises the Cadiak Pandai, intellectuals, teachers, poets and writers.
  3. The chilli (lado) symbolises the Alim Ulama, clerics, ulama and religious leaders. The hotness of the chilli symbolises Sharia.
  4. The spice mixture (pemasak) symbolises the rest of Minangkabau society.

Rendang is somehow similar to Beef Curry but without the broth since it is richer and contains less liquid than is normal for Indonesian curries. In 2011 an online poll of 35,000 people by CNN International chose rendang as the number one dish of their “World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods (Readers’ Pick)” list.

There are two types of Rendang ie Dried rendang and Wet rendang or kalio. According to Minangkabau tradition, their true rendang is the dry one. Rendang is diligently stirred, attended and cooked for hours until the coconut milk evaporated and the meat absorbed the spices. It is still served for special ceremonial occasions or to honour guests. If cooked properly, dried rendang can last for three to four weeks stored in room temperature and still good to consume. It can even last months stored in a refrigerator, and up to six months if frozen.

Wet rendang, more accurately identified as kalio, is a type of rendang that is cooked for a shorter period of time and much of the coconut milk liquid has not evaporated. If stored at room temperature, kalio lasts less than a week. Kalio usually has a light golden brown colour, paler than dry rendang.

Ingredients and cooking method

Rendang is rich in spices. Along with the main meat ingredient, rendang uses coconut milk (Minangkabau: karambia) and a paste of mixed ground spices, including ginger, galangal, turmeric leaves, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, chillis, and other spices. This spice mixture is called pemasak in Minangkabau. The spices, garlic, shallot, ginger, and galangal used in rendang have antimicrobial properties and serve as natural organic preservatives.


Step 1: Cut the beef

Cut the beef into 4 cm squares, half cm thick. Do not cut the beef too small as the meat can break into smaller pieces during cooking.


Step 2: Blend the spice

Blend all the ingredients in (B), set the blend aside.


Step 3: Bash the lemongrass

Remove the green section and the outer sheath of the lemongrass. Use only the white portion. Bash them so that the lemongrass to ensure the release of the flavor.


Step 4: Saute the spice

Heat up the vegetable oil in a wok. Saute the spice paste (B) over low heat until aromatic.


Step 5: Add the coconut milk

Add the coconut milk and lemongrass into the wok.


Step 6: Add the beef

Add the beef and cook over medium heat. Bring the coconut milk to a boil.


Step 7: Simmer the beef

Once it is boiled, continue simmer over low heat. Add water from time to time when the stew is about to dry.


Step 8: Cook until tender and turns into dark brown

Cook until the beef absorbs the flavor of the spices thoroughly and the color turns to dark brown. It will take about three hours.


Rendang is made from beef (or occasionally beef liver, chicken, mutton, water buffalo, duck, or vegetables like jackfruit or cassava). Chicken or duck rendang also contains tamarind and is usually not cooked for as long as beef rendang.

The original Indonesian-Minangkabau rendang has two categories, rendang darek and rendang pesisir. Rendang darek (‘land rendang’) is an umbrella term for dishes from old regions in mountainous areas of Minangkabau such as Batusangkar, Agam, Lima Puluh Kota, Payakumbuh, Padang Panjang and Bukittinggi. It mainly consists of beef, offal, poultry products, jackfruit, and many other vegetables and animal products which are found in these places. Rendang pesisir (‘coastal rendang’) is from the coastal regions of Minangkabau such as Pariaman, Padang, Painan and Pasaman. Rendang pesisir mainly consists of seafood, although it is not unusual for them to incorporate beef or water buffalo meat in their rendang.

Other ethnic groups in Indonesia also have adopted a version of rendang into their daily diet. For example, in Java, other than Padang rendang sold in Padang restaurants, the Javanese cooked a wet rendang, slightly sweeter and less spicy to accommodate Javanese tastes.

And I’m sure every of you have your own taste, right? so lets taste this delicious food buddy! 😀

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