Slow-cooked in aromatic spices and toasted coconut, this Indonesian beef curry is fantastic.
To make the rendang, remove the stems and seeds from the chilies and soak them in a pot of hot water for about 15 minutes. You can keep the pot over a low flame on the stove to keep the water nice and hot.
Once the chilies have softened, drain them and reserve some of the soaking liquid. Squeeze out the excess water from the chilies and give them a rough chop. Set aside.
Roughly chop the shallots and garlic. Peel and roughly chop the galangal and young ginger. Finely mince the lemongrass.
Place everything into a food processor, along with the chilies. Add a few tablespoons of the soaking liquid and puree. You’ll need to scrape down the sides of the food processor from time to time. You may also have to add another spoonful or so of soaking liquid for easy blending. Continue to pulse until you get a paste-like consistency. Set this aside while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
Using a mortar and pestle, grind the clove, cumin, coriander and fennel until you reach a fine powder. Set this aside and measure out the turmeric and salt.
Next, toast the coconut over medium-low heat. Keep an eye on it and stir often so it browns evenly, about 5 minutes or so. Once done, remove from the pan and set aside to cool slightly.
Dice the beef into about 1" -inch cubes and set aside.
Once the coconut is cool, grind it using a food processor or a mortar and pestle. Chop the palm sugar and measure out the tamarind pulp and kecap manis.
To cook the rendang, heat a heavy-bottomed pot, over medium heat and then add the oil. Add the ground spices and fry just until you can start to smell the aroma. Add the paste and stir together. Add the turmeric and continue to fry for about 5 minutes or until the liquid has been cooked out.
Next, add the beef and salt and stir to coat with the paste. Add the coconut milk, toasted coconut, water, tamarind, kecap manis, and palm sugar, and stir everything together. Tear the kaffir lime leaves and zest the kaffir lime. Give it a good stir and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer gently, uncovered for about 1-1.5 hours. Stir occasionally to make sure the heat is not too hot and that the mixture isn’t sticking on the bottom of the pot.
The meat is done when it is fork tender and falls apart easily. The sauce will thicken considerably and the oil will start to separate, which is what you are looking for.
To finish, check the seasoning and add a squeeze of fresh lime juice, if you like. Serve over coconut-infused rice and top with fresh cilantro.
This curry, because it cooks down and reduces so much, is considered a dry curry.
Allowing the coconut to cool will make it easier to finely grind.
Leftovers are very tasty when reheated the next day. They even freeze well.