One of Malaysia's better-known dishes is beef rendang, a slow-cooked dry curry deeply spiced with ginger and tumeric, kaffir lime and chilis. (You'll find chicken, vegetable, and seafood rendang as well.) In Malaysian fashion, it fuses sweet, sour, and savory elements, the curry picking up a creamy richness from two forms of coconut and an elusive tang from asam keping, slices of a sour sun-dried fruit.
Note: Asam keping can be found in dried form at some Asian grocery stores. Can be omitted, but if not using, add lime juice to taste.
- Spice Paste:
- 3/4 cup grated coconut
- 15 dried chillies
- 10 shallots, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 inch ginger (20 g), sliced
- 1 inch galangal (20 g), sliced
- 1 inch turmeric (10 g), sliced
- 2 stalks lemon grass, sliced
- 4-6 bird chillies, optional
- 1 pound sirloin, sliced into half-inch chunks (any lean stewing beef can be substituted)
- 1 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup water
- 1 turmeric leaf, tied into knot (can be omitted)
- 2 kaffir lime leaves, torn
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1-2 pieces asam keping (see note)
Place coconut in wok over medium heat and dry-fry until golden brown. Cool slightly before grinding finely in mortar and pestle, or in food processor.
Snip chillies into 1-inch lengths. Soak in hot water until softened. Discard half the seeds and place the chillies in electric blender jug with shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, turmeric and lemon grass. If you want a hotter rendang, add bird chillies. Add 1/2 cup water and grind to a paste- but not too finely.
Place spice paste, beef, coconut milk, and water in a roomy wok. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium heat, stirring now and then until mixture is well reduced and thick and oil surfaces—at least 45 minutes.
Add ground toasted coconut, turmeric leaf (if using), kaffir lime leaf, salt, sugar, and asam keping (if using). Cook another 5-10 minutes, taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary. Take pan off heat. Serve with rice.