How to cook beef rendang – rich, dry coconut beef

“Rendang probably developed out of the need to preserve the meat from a
freshly killed buffalo in a tropical climate without refrigeration.”
Sri Owen, Indonesian Regional Food & Cookery

This rich, dry coconut beef hails from the Padang region of western Sumatra. I visited the Sumatran capital, Medan in the mid-nineties en route to the spookiest place I ever visited, Lake Toba. Spooky because in that part of the world ancestor worship is on high rotation and the locals like to exhume their relatives to give them a better burial – and usually a better view – whenever they are financially viable. Also on the menu on the other side of the ridge were tourists. Need I say more?

My travels throughout Indonesia happily brought me to back to Ubud in 2003 to meet a real soul sister, my dear friend Janet deNeefe with whom I have shared many a meal and cooking class ever since between Melbourne and Bali. Janet’s famous Casa Luna Cooking School teaches the traditions of Balinese cuisine and regional Indonesian fare.

During one visit at Honeymoon Guesthouse (you might consider donating to keep her fabulous, loyal staff in food during this time of coronavirus) she gave me a tiny little paperback book called Spicy Padang Cooking that lives pride of place next to her cookbooks Bali The Food Of My Island Home, and Fragrant Rice, her first book and the impetus that drove me to write and self-publish my first book The Healing Feeling.

The rendang recipe from Spicy Padang Cooking adds lemongrass to the paste, and fresh curry leaves, turmeric leaf, kaffir lime and dried garcinia fruit into the sauce. Janet’s recipe for a Balinese Beef Rendang reminds us that beef is ‘seldom served in Balinese households’ in keeping with Hindu dietary restrictions. The Bali paste includes candlenuts and cumin seeds also.

How to cook beef rendang, please take the time to make it. I call it the King of Curry, though it’s not really a curry, it is truly rich, dry coconut beef. Note that I’ve added a sachet of Zest Rendang Blend that I received which of course enhanced the beef and very handy if you have limited time to prepare the paste.

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Beef Rendang – rich, dry coconut beef

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  • Author: Samantha Gowing
  • Total Time: 31 minute
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Rendang is the King of Curry, though it’s not really a curry, it is truly rich, dry coconut beef. Note that I’ve added a sachet of Zest Rendang Blend that I received which of course enhanced the beef and very handy if you have limited time to prepare the paste. How to cook beef rendang.


Units Scale

For the paste

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp ginger, finely chopped
1 Tbsp galangal, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh turmeric, finely chopped
6 long red chillies, coarsely chopped
6 shallots, peeled, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 tsp salt

For the beef
1 kg beef topside, cut into 3cm cubes
400 ml / 1 can / coconut milk (full fat)
1 sachet Zest Rendang Blend *optional
Dash fish sauce

To serve
Sticky rice is traditional, steamed rice, greens, chilli flakes or fried shallots


  1. To make the paste, In a small food processor or mortar and pestle process or pound the ginger, galangal, turmeric, chillies, shallots, and salt into a paste.
  2. Heat a large heavy-based saucepan or wok. Note that I am using a Breviile electric wok on the VDO because it’s a one stop wok shop that I can control the various temperatures.
  3. Add coconut oil and heat until melted, do not burn! Fry off the aromatics into fragrant and golden.
  4. Add the beef and quick fry to brown lightly – about 5 minutes on a high heat. Reduce heat, add coconut milk, Rendang Blend if using and a dash of fish sauce.
  5. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for around 2 – 2.5 hours until the coconut liquid reduces and transitions to an oil and then to a coconut sediment called blondo. This is what makes rendang unique and sets it apart from other coconut curries. Do take the time to do this (what I call phase 2 in the VDO).
  6. Now transfer the rendang to a wok if you started in heavy-based saucepan. Increase heat to medium-high and fry the beef on the coconut oil reduction/blondo. Be careful not to burn it. This will absorb the last of the oil – unless you like more gravy – and help to tenderise the meat.
  7. Before serving, let the rendang rest so the meat relaxes and flavours are enhanced. I You might like to cover with a lid to keep warm and allow a little steam to soften the meat further and prevent it drying out too much. Remember that a Rendang is a dry curry, not a wet dish.


You might like to make a double batch of paste and store in a jar in the fridge, just seal with a little coconut oil.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2.5 hours
  • Category: Curry
  • Cuisine: Indonesian

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