Rendang Tok Perak
The last installment of Malaysia Food Fest (MFF) brings us to Perak and it is just in time for Eid al-Fitr. After a long month of Ramadan, it is time for our Muslim friends to break fast and celebrate during what is more commonly known as “Hari Raya Puasa” over here in Malaysia and Singapore. One of the absolute must-haves for Hari Raya celebration is a spicy beef stew which originated from Indonesia called “Rendang“. I’d cooked Rendang Daging Rembau earlier this year for Negeri Sembilan but rendang cooking has a long withstanding tradition in Malaysia and has since evolved and developed so many varieties, with almost every state having their own unique variation. So it comes as no surprise that Perak too has its own “special” rendang and rightfully so as it is very famous, enjoyed by not only the Perakians but also visitors to the state. “Rendang Tok” as it is known, with “Tok” to mean royalty, this delicious rendang is literally food befitting the kings!
Unlike many other rendang varieties where the chunks of beef are stewed in a rich and spicy sauce known as “kuah“, Rendang Tok from Perak is much drier in comparison, with the gravy being greatly reduced from prolonged simmering until all that’s left is merely a thick layer that coats and adheres onto each piece of meat. Because of this, every chunk of beef is packed with so much flavour as the spices and condiments used become concentrated and compacted from the sauce reduction.
Another characteristic of Rendang Tok is its liberal use of spices. Seven types all in all, not forgetting the aromatics being played through the use of other ingredients. The spices used are divided into two categories. Cumin, fennel, black pepper and coriander are first toasted before being milled finely into powdered form. I prefer to do this from scratch instead of using store bought powders as both the flavours and aroma of freshly ground spices is far more intense compared to those sold outside.
Some ingredients are pounded into a paste which forms up the rempah of the dish. This procedure is very prototypical of Southeast Asian cooking as most of the work is done beforehand, leaving very little during the cooking itself.
The remaining spices like cinnamon, cloves and cardamom are added directly into the cooking pot with the remaining ingredients like kaffir lime leaves, gula melaka and kerisik. The toasted grated coconut lends a wonderful nutty aroma to the gravy and also helps to thicken it considerably. Gula melaka provides an earthy sweetness to the dish that has much more depth than the usual granulated sugar. Apart from the root, tumeric leaves are also used and is almost quintessential of many rendang recipes.
Freshly milled spices, ready to be used to marinate the beef chunks. The beautiful thing about rendang, or for that matter any beef stew is that usually a cheaper cut of beef which is incidentally also tougher can be used. The prolonged cooking process works on the beef to break it down and produce remarkably soft textures that would yield with the slightest pressure from any fork.
A good toss is all that’s required before the marinating process kicks in. I’d included the chilli powder in the marinate instead of blitzing it with the other rempah ingredients. A small change of procedure which is hardly of any consequence. Rendang recipes are usually very forgiving.
Sauteeing the rempah, using the neat little trick I’d learnt from Chef Malcolm Lee during the Ayam Buah Keluak class I’d attended last year. Wanna know what that trick is? Read about it in my Ayam Buah Keluak post! haha
Tossing in the beef chunks that had been marinating for 2 hours.
Making sure that every piece of meat is well coated with the rempah. This is kinda redundant actually as everything would be very well combined when water and coconut milk is added subsequently. But old habits die hard I guess… oh well…
In goes all the other ingredients, water and coconut milk. Don’t be taken aback by how “unrendang” like this looks. The colours would darken considerably after the gravy is greatly reduced from the long periods of simmering.
After an hour or so of simmering with lid on… This would be what a typical rendang would probably look like but for Rendang Tok, the kuah has to be reduced further…
Reducing and thickening the kuah with lid off for another 20 mins under very low heat, barely simmering to allow the water to evaporate. Take note as the gravy is really dense now and any built up in steam pressure would cause much splitter and splatter if the heat is too high…stir periodically to prevent the base from burning. GIve it another 20-30 min or so and the rendang would be ready. Depending on the cut of beef used, the size of the beef chunks and the intensity of the flame, the actual cooking time may vary between 2 to 2.5 hours. If the chunks get too dry before the beef is properly tender, simply top up with a bowl of water or so and cook somemore!
Rendang Tok Perak Recipe
1.2 kg beef, cut into large chunks
3 tbsp coriander (ketumbar)
1 tbsp cumin (jintan putih)
1 tbsp fennel (jintan manis)
1 tbsp black pepper (lada hitam)
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp chilli powder
Toast all these spices in the oven at 100 degrees celcius for 15-20 min. Mill the spices until finely powdered. Sift the spices and discard any large pieces. Marinate beef chunks with spice mix, salt and chilli powder for 2 hours.
30 shallots (bawang kecil)
10 cloves garlic (bawang putih)
10 lemongrass (batang serai)
thumb’s length knob of galangal (lengkwas)
thumb’s length knob of ginger ( halia)
thumb’s length knob of tumeric ( kunyit hidup)
Blend or pound all the ingredients until a smooth paste is obtained. 2-3 tbsp of water may be added to help with the blending process.
10 kaffir lime leaves (daun limau purut)
3 tumeric leaves (daun kunyit)
10 cardamom pods (buah pelaga)
10 cloves ( bunga cengkih)
2 sticks of cassia bark aka chinese cinnamon (kulit kayu manis)
500g fresh coconut milk
1 cup toasted grated coconut (kerisik)
2 tbsp cooking oil
30g chopped coconut sugar (gula melaka), adjust to taste
Salt to taste
- Add 2 tbsp of cooking oil and saute the rempah ingredients until fragrant. If water was added during the blending process, simply dry fry the rempah paste to evaporate away most of the water before adding oil.
- Add marinated beef chunks, followed by all the other ingredients. Add sufficient water to make sure that everything is properly submerged.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, after which, reduce to low heat and simmer for 2hrs or till very tender. Simmer with lid on for the first hour and subsequently, remove the lid and continue to simmer for another hour or so. Take care to stir the rendang periodically to make sure that everything is well amalgamated and prevent anything from sticking to the base.
- Adjust the taste with salt and palm sugar accordingly,
- Serve with rice, ketupat or nasi impit.