I have been introduced to the delight of Malaysian food by my good friend Justin Thomas, a Malaysian himself and a passionate epicurean. Justin is the kind of guy I would let order all of my meals and would never be disappointed. On a business trip in Vancouver, he invited for dinner to a place called “The Banana Leaf” on Broadway. This was my Malay dining experience, what a treat. The most memorable dish that night was called Rendang Beef, beef braised in coconut milk and Asian spices; rich, flavourful, and extremely aromatic. Since then I have found a couple of Rendang recipes. My favourite and Justin’s too, is the one I am sharing with you today. It comes courtesy of malaysianfood.net, an extensive web site dedicated to the Malay food culture.
Malaysian Food is not one particular distinction of food but a culinary diversity originating from it's multi-ethnic population of Malay, Indian, Eurasian, Chinese,Nyonya and the Indigenous peoples of Borneo. A brief look into the past and how this multi-ethnic country came to be, is essential in order to comprehend how such a cosmic array of food, has now come to be known all over the world as 'Malaysian Food'.
Beef Rendang (Malay Spiced Coconut Beef)
Ingredients ( most can be found at your local Asia market):
· 1 ½ lb of beef cut into 1 ½ to 2 inch chunks (tougher cuts of beef is suitable
· 4 cups of thick coconut milk
· 1 cup fresh coconut meat, finely grated (substitute unsweetened desiccated coconut, I have omitted this item without compromising the dish)
· 2 stalks of lemongrass, slightly crushed (cut to fit your cooking dish)
· 2 to 3 turmeric leaves (daun Kunyit), (substitute: Kafir lime leaves: or zest of 1 lime)
· 3 tbsp vegetable oil
· 2 tbsp of sugar
· Salt and pepper
The next list of ingredients is to be crushed together.
· 4 – 5 tbsp of chilli paste
· 1 ½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
· 1 inch galangal ( lengkuas in Malay)
· 1 ½ inch of fresh turmeric root ( Kunyit basah in Malay) peeled and sliced
· 2 tsp of coarse salt
· Season beef with salt and pepper, marinate for at least 30 minutes
· Using a mortar and pestle grind galangal, ginger, turmeric root, chilli paste and kosher salt into a spice paste
· In a dry heated pan, toast the finely grated coconut meat over low heat, keep stirring until golden brown. Allow to cool, then using a mortar & pestle, pound into a paste (called Kerishik in Malay
· Heat wok on high, stir fry spice pastes 2 to 3 minutes, add coconut milk, reduce heat and slowly bring to a gentle boil; stir often
· Add beef and slow boil for ten minutes
· Add lemongrass, turmeric leaves ( or Kafir lime leaves ; or limes zest, sugar and season with salt and pepper
· Reduce heat to low, uncovered, simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours. Stir often with a spatula ( be sure to scrape the bottom of the wok, add a little water if it starts to dry up too quickly
· Add the toasted coconut paste (kerisik) during the last 30 minutes of cooking
· When the beef is very tender the gravy, thickens and oil starts to float on top. Remove from heat and discard the lemongrass and turmeric leaves
· Server beef Rendang with steamed rice.