Indonesian Spicy Beef in Coconut Sauce

Makes 4 servings


In Indonesia there is a dish called rendang, in which cubes of water buffalo meat or beef are slowly cooked in coconut milk until the milk is reduced to its oil and the sauce becomes very thick. The result is that the meat is almost preserved and can be kept without refrigeration for a while. I once heard about an Indonesian student studying in the U.S. who, after a vacation holiday in Indonesia, brought back with him coffee cans full of rendang to have as a treat.

In this recipe, the coconut milk is not cooked to the point where it becomes oil, but rather remains a thick creamy sauce. The result reminds me of a Stroganoff sauce, but with a more complex interplay of flavors—surprisingly, the pungent shrimp paste and the chiles are tamed by the coconut milk. This is actually a simple dish to prepare.

2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 red chiles, cored, seeded, and sliced
1 teaspoon tamarind paste*
1 tablespoon warm water
1/2 teaspoon Malaysian shrimp paste (petis udang)*
I tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 pound boneless chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk

*For Ingredient Sources, see actual cookbook.

In a mortar with a pestle, crush together the garlic and chiles to make a paste. In a small bowl, using your fingers, mash together the tamarind paste and warm water, removing any seeds, until the liquid is somewhat thickish and the paste is evenly distributed. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in the shrimp paste and garlic-chile paste.

In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until softened and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Stir in the chile mixture along with the ginger and sauté 1 to 2 minutes. Add the beef and coconut milk. Bring to a gentle boil. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered, until beef is tender and sauce is thickened, about 1 hour. Serve.

Serving tip: Since the sauce is so rich, rice is the perfect accompaniment.

Buy the Book!

Home Cooking Around The World:
A Recipe Collection
By David Ricketts
Photographs by Mark Thomas
Published in October 2001 by Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Hardcover, $35
208 Pages / 80 recipes
ISBN: 1-58479-092-X
Recipe reprinted by permission.


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