I always wondered how to cook beef rendang, the famous spicy beef that is ubiquitous in Indonesia and Malaysia. During our cooking class in Langkawi, Cook With Shuk, we were able to learn how to cook beef rendang, even if it was a speedy version of the generally slow cooked dish.
How to Cook Beef Rendang, The Speedy Way
Chef Shuk offered us a more speedy version of beef rendang, as the traditional version uses a lesser quality cut of beef and requires approximately 8 hours to cook. We did not have that kind of time during our cooking class with Chef Shuk. Instead, we used a high quality tenderloin, which would not take as long to cook.
And, we sped up the process because Chef Shuk prepared many of the ingredients ahead of time. Still, even with the prep work partially complete, I was amazed at how much goes into making a beef rendang.
Eric took the lead on mixing onions, garlic, ginger, and galangal, a wild type of ginger that has a more bitter taste than its more well-known ginger. We were given some freedom in choosing how much of each spice to use, depending on how much we like ginger (a lot) or garlic (a lot) or onion (me, not so much). To this mixture we added sliced lemongrass, chili sauce, called sambal, along with freshly ground turmeric, a deep orange-colored root, popular in juices in Bali.
We continued to work in garam masala, a curry powder, which is a mixture of several different spices, popular in Indian curries. Although it is possible to make a garam masala from scratch (as we did for another dish), it is also easy to buy at an Asian super market to save time.
Once the paste was mixed and ready, we added it to the already hot wok, which was drizzled with oil. By heating the paste over the oil, the flavors and smells opened up. We added coconut cream and water to the paste, to make a bright red curry sauce. Then, we added the cubed slices of tenderloin beef, along with some kaffir lime leaves and turmeric leaves.
Here’s where I learned the most about how to cook beef rendang. Beef rendang is popularly known as the beef curry that turns from liquid to dry. That’s what happened.
At first, there was a wok full of bright red curry sauce. As time wore on, and presumably what would happen at a slower pace if we cooked a meat for the full eight hours, the red, thin sauce started to bubble, then turn dark yellow, and ultimately a deep brown.
In the end, all of the liquid was absorbed into the beef, turning a tenderloin curry into beef rendang.
Learning how to cook beef rendang was one of the highlights of our trip to Langkawi. I felt that I had learned the secrets to one of the most fundamental dishes in Malaysia. Then, we got to eat it!
We were supported by Naturally Langkawi during our trip, but all opinions are, as always, my own.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.