It's the new moon of Syawal and its a day of celebration, a special day for all Muslims. I remember growing up, Syawal brings us scrumptious banquets of beef rendang, rice cubes (compacted rice boiled in palm leaves), satay & peanut sauce. Biscuits and sweets to feast on all month long. New shoes, new outfits, packets of money for us kids as gifts from visiting relatives. All of this possible by the grace of the Al-Mighty who showers us with His blessings.
Every year, my mum would prepare the mandatory rendang, alternating between chicken or beef from one year to the next. Its no surprise that Rick Stein named this the top ten curry of all times. The ingredients may vary from region to region in Malaysia but the kind that my mum prepares uses very basic ingredients, slow cooked to perfection and as my husband puts it so succinctly, "the taste of Raya (Eid) in one bite". So here it is the humble rendang for you to try.
2 kg beef or chicken pieces
4 tbs chili paste
6 cloves garlic
4 stalks fresh lemon grass (chopped finely)
4 cm ginger
2 cans of 500ml coconut cream
2 tbsp salt
1 piece of turmeric leave or 2 pieces kaffir lime leaves(optional)
2 tbsp kerisik* (toasted coconut pounded)- optional
Blend onions, garlic, ginger, chilli paste and chopped lemon grass in food processor.
Heat wok/scan pan. A non stick surface seems to work well as you would not need to keep stirring the gravy for the next 2 hours.
Pour one can of the coconut cream and stir on low heat until cream bubbles and oil surfaces (10 minutes). This method is a healthier alternative than actually adding processed cooking oil when caramelizing your spice paste. Some recipes calls for adding "kerisik" to the end of the cooking process. However, converting the coconut cream into oil achieves the same nutty aromatic flavour from adding the "kerisik".
Add the blended spice paste onto the oil and keep stirring until paste turns aromatic. Turn up the heat and add beef or chicken to sear and seal the meat in the spices.
Once all pieces are seared, turn down heat to medium. Keep stirring until juices are reduced and lower the heat and cover the pan until the lowest setting for 30-40 minutes to tenderize the meat and gravy is reduced to half.
Add the second can of coconut cream to the pan,mix well and cover the pan for another 30 minutes on low heat.
The gravy should be further reduced and the oil should separate at this point. It is really up to personal taste how "dry" you like your rendang. That's the beauty of this dish, it is good on all levels, and it keeps for several days as long as you keep re-heating it and the drier it gets, the more developed the flavour.
Add fresh turmeric leaves or kaffir lime leaves. Stir through.
Its good with plain rice, or rice cube, nasi lemak or my personal favourite; with a slice of white bread.