Let’s celebrate Rendang

Rendang is a very popular dish. The thick coconut milk and spices with the very tender meat make it really difficult to resist. Once you try, you will miss it.

As a dish, rendang is very versatile. You can eat it with rice or with rice cakes (ketupat – rice cooked inside young coconut leaves or lontong – rice cooked inside banana leaves). You can add vegetables as the side dish or eat it together with another meat dish. It can be for a celebratory event such as a birthday or wedding or just a simple everyday dinner.

Despite the similarities of rendang and curry (as both use a liberal amount of coconut milk), they are made from completely different kinds of spices. Roots (galangal, turmeric, ginger) are essential for rendang compared to curry. Rendang is also generally drier than curry.

When my mother first introduced me to cooking, this was a dish that was very daunting to cook. No convenient ready-made spice for Rendang was available in shops at the time and making coconut milk was a tedious job.

If you cannot mix the 21 spices to balance the flavour that creates the taste of rendang, then you are not a good cook.

- a saying among my Minang friends from Padang

(a city on Sumatra Island where rendang originates)

Rendang is a tough measure for cooking… but what can you expect from a place where spices are in abundance? It will test whether you are a capable cook or not and whether you have temperament as well, as patience is the key when it comes to cooking rendang.

Maybe that is the reason I only started to cook when I moved to Australia and missed the taste of Indonesian food, I was already in my early 30s at the time. Although I have to confess that any dish seemed to be very difficult for me. When I started to cook, it was purely because my taste buds craved tasty beef rendang.

With many cook books including rendang recipes, it is now very easy to cook and get the delicious taste of rendang at home. Check the recipes in these books available from the Library:

Bill's Everyday Asian
Chicken and Rice
200 Fast Midweek Meals
Asia Light