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 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*