Asian Dishes, Malay, Meat, Singapore

William Wongso’s Beef Rendang

Usually during Eid/Hari Raya, Malay homes will be resplendent with the aroma of rich spices of festive cooking. And for many homes here, beef rendang is a traditional festive dish.

While I did make this last week for Eid/Hari Raya, my obsession with finding the perfect beef rendang continues. And I am obsessed with trying out William Wongso’s recipe and technique.

William Wongso is legendary in the Indonesian world of beef rendangs. I believe he took this humble dish to the West, or rather popularised it. His method is crazy! Simmering the beef rendang for 8 hours in order to get that rich caramelised flavour. Though, in a video I watched on YouTube, he did concede one can use an oven too.

Beef rendang originated in the Indonesian island of Sumatra. There are many variations of it, and I know I’ve posted several versions of this dish. I usually make this in a pressure cooker because it’s fast and the flavours get retained. But I thought, I should try Willy Wongso’s way.

His rempah, or spice paste is mild. I used the recipe from this Jakarta Post site

Instead of using fresh coconut, I used the packet cream ones. Since the cream ones are thicker, I used 900g of cream coconut, added about 100ml of water and then the spice paste. I added the beef and then the aromatics i.e. lemongrass, turmeric leaves, kaffir lime leaves. And then I added on asam keping, tamarind fruit. Added salt and then I placed it in the oven for 1.5 hours.

Now, after that, I thought it’d be done but I was wrong! Even though I had placed it in the oven for 1.5 hours at 200 Celcius, when I took it out, the mixture was still yellow.

So I continued cooking on the stove top for another 3 hours! Yes! That’s how long it takes to cook rendang!

Here are the steps, and if you want to try this, use tenderloin (it was too expensive for me, so I use chuck) and make sure you remove the lemongrass after a while. I made the mistake of stirring the lemongrass while waiting for the rendang to caramelise, which resulted in many small pieces of lemongrass spikes. It took me ages to pull all of them out of the mixture!

The first step is to blend the spice paste till fine.
The next step is to take a heavy bottom pot or Dutch Oven and pour in your coconut cream.
Add the beef cubes, aromatics and season with salt and sugar. Add also the tamarind piece.
Put the pot in the oven at 200Celcius for more than my 1.5 hours. Maybe three should do the trick? If it’s still wet, continue slaving over the pot, making sure to stir constantly so the mixture doesn’t burn. Oh, and remove the lemongrass!!
It will slowly get darker. But this is still not ready yet! Continue cooking until you see oil coming out from the mixture.
Like this….this is when you can say it’s ready. Though, I wonder if I continue stirring, will it get darker? I wanted a very dark rendang, but maybe it’s got to do with the spice mixture too. I will try another recipe one day again.
It was indeed delicious! No doubt about that. There really isn’t nothing much to not like about rendang. It’s super flavourful, and the meat tender but still retained that bite.
I kept one container full for lunch today while took a plate of rendang to try. By the time this was done, it was close to midnight so it became my midnight snack!

And there I have done it. Slow cooking rendang without frying the rempah first but cooking the rempah in the coconut cream till caramelised. If you want to be adventurous and have lots of patience and time on your hands, I highly recommend trying to make this. It is after all voted as one of the top 50 foods to try by CNN.

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