In countries with tropical climates such as the Philippines and Indonesia, especially in the olden days when there wasn’t any refrigeration available, people had to be creative in finding ways on how to preserve meat. In the Philippines, we use vinegar to help keep the meat longer. Adobo is the classic example. Meat is stewed in vinegar with other seasonings to ensure that it can be kept for days. The wonderful result is that not only does this technique lengthen the life of the dish to several days, the food tastes even better as it is kept longer.
Beef Rendang, the Indonesian classic dish, is similar to the Filipino Adobo in that it is another technique of cooking that is also a means to conserve the meat organically by using spices such as garlic, shallots, ginger and galangal – all natural preservatives. And like Adobo, it tastes even better the next day and am sure the day after that…..assuming there are any left-overs. This dish resembles the Philippine’s Adobo sa Gata (meat stewed in coconut milk) as both use Coconut Milk for braising. However, the Filipino version would be saucy compared to the Rendang which is essentially dry. All I can say is that this Asian spicy beef dish, sometimes described as the, “West Sumatran Caramelized Beef Curry,” is simply delicious. Because of the many spices added to it, it is known for having such a complex, unique and truly palate-pleasing taste!
While it may take a long time and some attention to cook the beef, it’s not complicated at all. The slow cooking ensures that a lot of flavor is absorbed by the beef. And it is definitely worth the wait so I do hope you will all try this amazing dish!
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4 Garlic cloves
2 Onions or 5-6 Shallots, sliced
1 inch piece fresh Galangal, peeled then sliced*
1 teaspoon ground Coriander
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Red chili flakes
2 Tablespoons Oil
2 lb boneless stewing Beef (like chuck), cut into 2-inch pieces
2 Lemon Grass stalks, lower white part, bruised then smashed
1 inch piece fresh Ginger, peeled then sliced
1 14 oz can Coconut Milk
2 Kaffir Lime leaves or Bay leaves
1 1/2 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
Salt, to taste
2 teaspoon Fish Sauce (optional)
*If you can’t find Galangal just double the amount of Ginger and use one for the paste and the other one for sauteing.
In a food processor, grind the garlic, onions or shallots, galangal (or extra ginger), coriander, cumin, red Chili flakes and to a smooth paste. Set aside.
In a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil to medium high. Fry the beef until brown on all sides. You may have to do this in batches. Set aside.
In the remaining oil, saute the lemon grass and the sliced ginger until aromatic, about 1 minute. Lower the heat and add the spice paste and cook for about 2-3 minutes stirring it occasionally.
Add the beef back and coat with the paste. Pour in the coconut milk and add the brown sugar and Kaffir Lime or Bay leaves. Stir everything and let the liquid boil. Cover the pot loosely to allow some steam to escape. Let the stew simmer (low to medium heat) until the beef is tender about 1 1/2 – 2 hours. The intention is to eventually dry up the sauce as the beef is being cooked. Stir occasionally to ensure that the beef doesn’t stick to the pot and the coconut milk doesn’t scorch.
When the meat is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, uncover. Season with either salt or fish sauce, to taste. I used the fish sauce (yum!). Turn up the heat a little and stir frequently so the beef doesn’t stick to the pan and burn. You may notice some oil forming and being released at this point, too. You want the mixture to dry up but avoid burning the meat. It’s like stir-frying the beef in its own oil which ensures more flavor. It’s done when the beef has turned into a dark caramel color, and the sauce coats the meat.
While it’s wonderful eaten the day it’s cooked, the flavor deepens and intensifies when kept overnight. So if you could wait, that would be awesome! I recommend making this a day ahead.
Serve with freshly boiled rice and some steamed green veggies!
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