Close to five years of living in Jakarta, more than a year of writing this blog and I’m only now getting around to sharing an Indonesian recipe with you, shame on me! Since it’s the first Indonesian dish here, I had to go with something iconic and much loved, yes; it’s the Rendang- slow cooked, coconuty, spicy goodness with ingredients and flavours that so beautifully portray this part of the world. I first tried rendang when the husband brought home a box that his colleague Fitri’s mother had made during Eid and I immediately fell in love with the rich aromatic flavours so when I finally decided to make it for myself, I had to ask Fitri if she’d share the recipe with me and luckily she agreed.
When I met Fitri to understand the rendang process and ingredients, we got talking and I learnt that Fitri’s parents used to run a restaurant for many years but as they aged, it became harder for them to keep up and so they decided to close down the restaurant and do catering from home instead. Fitri’s mom is the main cook but she said it was her father who taught her mom how to cook rendang, which for some reason I thought was really sweet. I didn’t want to mess a family recipe, especially one that is so good but I did omit and substitute a few of the ingredients that aren’t easy to find like turmeric leaves, although I’m sure would’ve been lovely, it’s not something I ever have in my pantry so I left it out, I also used mutton/ goat meat (kambing in Indonesian) instead of beef, not because I don’t eat beef or am overly religious, I just felt more comfortable cooking with mutton since I’ve never cooked beef so feel free to use beef if you like. The cooking technique is not one I was used to; for starters no oil is used- at all! The coconut milk is cooked along with the spices, then strained to remove all the solids and then the meat is added to the strained, flavoured coconut milk and cooked till all the liquids dry up after which the palm sugar is added (I used gur or jaggery instead) which gives it a beautiful caramelized flavour; it’s slow cooked so it does take some time but you don’t have to constantly stir it or worry about it so it’s neither difficult nor labour intensive, just takes a little time. The finished dish is kind of dry; since no water is added and the spices used in making it have antimicrobial properties so in the pre refrigeration days it was extremely popular because if cooked right, it could be stored for up to a month.
So here is my version of rendang using kambing (goat meat), it can never taste as good as what Fitri’s mom cooks but I have done my best to treat her family recipe with respect. I sent her some of my rendang to taste and she very kindly said it was good though if that’s what she actually thought or if she was just being polite, I’ll probably never know but a heartfelt thank you to Fitri and her mom for being generous enough to share this wonderful recipe with me. If you ever find yourself in Jakarta and want to try some authentic home cooked Indonesian food, drop me a line and I’ll get you in touch with Fitri.
- Mutton/ Goat meat- 750 grams (boneless and fat removed, cut in 2 inch cubes)
- Coconut milk- 700 ml
- Grated coconut- ¼ cup
- Lemongrass- 2-3 stalks (use stem only)
- Fresh red chilies- 100 grams
- Shallots- 10 (can use one medium red onion instead)
- Garlic paste- 1 tbsp
- Ginger paste- 1 tbsp
- Bay leaves (fresh or dried) – 3
- Cinnamon- 3 inch stick
- Lime leaves- 3-4
- Cumin- 2 tsp
- Coriander powder- 2 tsp (can use crushed coriander seeds instead)
- Salt- 1/2 – 1 tsp
- Gur/ jaggery or palm sugar- 2 tsp (grated)
- Lime juice- 1 tsp
- Fried shallots for garnish (optional)
- In a blender/ food processor, add the red chilies (remove stem) and grind to a paste; set aside. Peel the shallots, if using onions peel and thinly slice. Roughly tear the lime leaves. Using a rolling pin or something similar, bruise the lemongrass stem to extract maximum flavour and fragrance.
- In a heavy bottomed pan, add all the ingredients except the meat, salt, palm sugar and lime juice. Cook on medium flame till the coconut milk comes to a boil then turn down the heat to the lowest possible setting, cover loosely and let simmer for 8-10 minutes.
- Place a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl and keep it ready. After the coconut milk and spices have been simmering for 8-10 minutes, take the pan off the heat and strain everything through the sieve lined bowl; using a ladle or a spatula press down well so maximum liquids and flavours gets strained through. Put the sieved liquid back into the same pan and bring it to a boil; once it comes to a boil, turn down the heat to the lowest possible setting and add the meat; cover loosely and let cook until done (anywhere between 30-40 minutes).
- You don’t have to baby sit it and no need to stir it frequently but do keep an eye on it and stir towards the end when the meat is cooked and most of the liquids have evaporated. Once the oil (from the coconut) separates, add the salt, gur or palm sugar and stir to mix, turn off the heat and add the lime juice and give it one final mix. Taste and adjust the salt, lime juice and gur/palm sugar to get the perfect balance of flavours. Top with fried shallots if you like.
- Serve with steamed jasmine rice or plain rice.
- You can also use beef as traditionally rending is made using beef.
- Reduce the amount of chilies if you want it to be less spicy.
- Make sure you press on the sieve so all the liquid and flavour possible gets strained and back into the pan.
- You don’t have to stand over the stove after you add the meat, stir and keep an eye on it only at the end when the liquids have dried up and the oil separates.
- At the end taste and adjust the salt, lime juice and palm sugar to get the right balance of flavours.