Like most things, there’s a story behind this recipe, but I’ll keep it short and sweet: Rob and I both lived in Ottawa for years (separately, then together). We also both went to a Malaysian restaurant in the East end of Ottawa that served this blow-the-top-of-your-head-off beef rendang recipe (separately, then together). We left Ottawa and never had beef rendang again. Until a few months ago, when I stumbled across a recipe on the interwebs. Then another, and another (I was Googling at this point). I delved in.
The first attempt was awful. The next, less so. Then I kept at it, basically taking a hack at it any time stewing beef was on sale. Tonight, I finally nailed it. Or at least my version of it. This is the recipe.
Note: this is effing spicy. I love spicy food and this is damn near the top of my current tolerance. Adjust the number of chiles you put in the spice paste to slightly-more-than-feels-sane-for-you. It should be hot. The Ottawa version would make you break out in a sweat. Make it hot, but you do you. Ok, the recipe.
Ingredients (this makes a huge double batch — it’s worth it)
- 6-7 good sized shallots, peeled and halved
- 10-12 peeled cloves of garlic (to taste — basically however much you think would be a sane amount of garlic, then double it)
- 3-4″ peeled ginger, chopped into chunks
- 12-16 fresh thai chiles (cut off the stems, leave the rest — again, tone this down to what feels sane…this is A LOT OF SPICE)
- a good-sized pinch of dried chile flakes (1 tsp or so)
- 1/2 tsp or so of salt (to taste)
- 1/2 tsp or so of pepper (to taste)
- 3.5 lbs (~1.5 kg) stewing beef
- 4-5 tbsp cooking oil (I use peanut oil, but sunflower, canola, safflower…etc. Olive oil doesn’t really work.)
- 1 cinnamon stick (about 4″ long)
- 6 cloves
- 6 star anise
- 6 cardamom pods
- 5-6 stalks lemongrass — cut down to the bottom 4-5″, peel the top layer off, leave the root, mash lightly to release oils. You fish these out later, so don’t chop them up.
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk (this stuff is thick and normally separated in the can — I dump the can into a mixing bowl so i can whisk it back to being milk-like rather than chunky)
- 1.5 c water (whisk this in with the coconut milk…it’s just easier)
- Zest & juice from two limes mixed with 3 tbsp brown sugar (this replaces the tamarind paste and kaffir lime leaves that are in most rendang recipes…it’s delicious)
- Put the garlic, ginger, shallots, thai chiles, chile flakes, salt and pepper into a food processor and process until very finely chopped. BE CAREFUL, it will try to blow your face off when you open the lid.
- Heat the oil in a stew pot and toss in the cinnamon, star anise, cardamom pods, and cloves. Let these heat on med-low for a bit, then plop the spice paste in on top. Turn up the heat and stir-fry the whole mess for 6-7 minutes. Your house will now smell insane.
- Add the beef and lemongrass stalks, stir well to combine. The beef should all be covered with the spice paste. Let that cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour in the lime juice/zest/sugar mix and stir to combine. Add the coconut milk/water mixture and stir to combine. It will be alarmingly soupy at this point. Do not be alarmed.
- Once it all comes up to a simmer, cover (leave a gap so stuff can evaporate) and simmer on low for 1.5 hours, stirring every 20-30 mins.
- Take the lid off and continue simmering until the sauce reduces by at least half (another 1-1.5 hrs). It will turn into a lovely rich, thick, glossy gravy, and the beef will be super tender. Remove the lemongrass chunks and obvious spices towards the end of cooking – you will miss some, but that’s ok. Also, keep an eye on it as it thickens — the bottom can get a bit crusty, so stir more often, scraping at the bottom, until it’s as thick as you want (it should be thick, but not dry).
Yeah, that’s it. It takes a while to simmer down, but prep is pretty quick once you get the hang of it. Serve with rice and naan. A cooling yogurt chutney never hurt (have yogurt on hand either way, in case you overdo the spices a bit.)
The end. Send me a note (@dria on Twitter) if you have questions or feedback! *kissyface emoji* *thumbsup*