Rendang Curry- is what?
There are many recipes online today for chicken rendang (rendang ayam), but this particular dish comes from west Sumatra in Indonesia and is traditionally made with beef.
It became really popular in Malaysia and Singapore where you’ll find most of your recipes if searching online.
Today, we’re making Rendang Indonesian style with no meat, and this recipe comes from Alius, an Indonesian from west Sumatra who has a passion and immense skill in his region’s traditional dishes.
This dish is the spice recipe in which you’d normally slowly cook beef on an open fire outside, giving the curry a distinct smoky flavour. Today, the dish is most commonly made in the kitchen, and even in Indonesian restaurants, it’ll be made in a stewing pot on top of a modern stove.
To be honest, the main trick with this dish is to smash your spices using a pestal and mortar – I absolutely promise you that the effort is worthwhile!
This is not traditionally a vegan dish, but I believe we can hijack the flavours and texture of rendang to make a great vegan dish that can be enjoyed with rice and vegetables. Rendang is usually a brown colour dish, which gets its colour from the meat, turmeric, red chillies and, to an extent, the type of pan that Indonesians use.
When making this in a modern pan, with no meat, you’ll only get a deep yellow-orange colour.
This is a dry curry, there is no sauce as such with it. Although, the way it is made – there is no reason why you could not stop the reduction earlier in order to retain a gravy if that suits you better.
A note about grated coconut
This recipe calls for grated coconut which is not easy to come by, but is very easy to make with some patience. You’ll need the flesh from a small coconut, which is easy enough to grate using a food processor. It is then fried until it is very dark – you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s burnt! But it does add a depth of flavour to the dish.
Today, in many British supermarkets, it’s quite common to find small pots of coconut flesh for snacking. This would work perfectly fine! Alternatively, you can used dried desiccated coconut but that would probably fry much faster.
Word of warning
This is a treat recipe – one for every now and then! It’s eye-watering content of saturated fat from the coconut makes it a dish you could not consume regularly. Imagine how much fat would be in this dish as made traditionally with beef!
- 4 cm piece galangal
- 6 cm piece turmeric
- 10 birdseye chilli red
- 3 cm piece ginger
- 5 shallots peeled, roughly chopped
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp course rock salt
- 2 tsp white pepper corns
- 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
- 800 ml coconut milk
- 400 ml water
- 80 g coconut grated fresh
- 1 star anise
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 1 large tin of jackfruit 565g
- 2 plantain green,peeled and cut into 3cm lengths, optional
Grind the cumin seeds, peppercorns, salt and wet spices (galangal, turmeric, chilli, ginger, shallots, garlic) into a paste using a pestal and mortar or small grinder
Dry fry the coconut until it is very dark, make sure it is constantly moved about the pan otherwise it sticks to the bottom and you'll have chunks of burnt coconut. You're looking for a colour that is one stage below burnt.
Grind the coconut using a pestal and mortar until you have a toasted coconut powder and set aside.
In a large pan, put in the spice paste (don't saute), coconut milk, toasted coconut, water, star anise, lime leaves, bay leaf and, if using raw jackfruit, that can go in now. Stir continuously to prevent the coconut milk from splitting until the sauce has reduced by about a third or so.
Add the plantain if using and garam masala - continue reducing until about half of the mixture has gone and add the jackfruit. Now you can stir only occasionally. The coconut milk will split, but at this point, that's what we're looking for.
Once the oils have separated out and you have a dry curry - it's ready for serving. Just remember to remove the star anise, and all the flavouring leaves.
You can use either canned or raw jackfruit. If using raw, remember to add it at the beginning of the cooking process. If using canned, it goes in half way through. For a more intense flavour. Replace the lid at point 4, turn down to simmer and let it slowly reduce.
Seb is a nutritionist registered with the Association for Nutrition and a writer specialising in plant-based nutrition and men’s health. He graduated from Chester University with a masters degree in human nutrition and loves discovering new and vibrant plant-based recipes.