Beef Dendeng: A Classic Recipe for Special Occasions

Dark as night beef dendeng – perfect for special occasions or everyday eating

Beef dendeng comes across as a fairly complicating dish. Dark, oily, with a hint of spicy sweetness, it is often the star attraction be it on a spread during Eid, weddings or daily meals.

Originating from Indonesia, beef dendeng is also a legitimate Malaysian dish. While dendeng generally refers to dried thinly sliced beef in Indonesia, in Malaysia it evokes images this deep, rich and flavoursome dish, of black as night dried beef unabashedly swimming in a pool of equally dark oil.

Perhaps it is this, its richness and darkness, that makes us think beef dendeng is the type of dish requiring hours of toiling over a hot kitchen stove, and that it can only be made by the most experienced kitchen experts. While recipes and complexities may vary from kitchen to kitchen, what if we told you that you can make an impressive and equally delicious beef dendeng with a dozen ingredients and only about an hour of cooking time?

Yes, you read that right. This seemingly complex dish is actually very easy to make. You’ll need to put your back into it a bit, or get someone to help you with the bashing – older kids would be great at this! Try making beef dendeng one day and we’re pretty sure you’ll impress yourself, your family, and your guests!

  • 500g beef
For the marinade:
  • 64g sweet thick soy sauce, about 3 tbsp
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1g salt (1 tsp)
  • 1g black pepper, roughly ground (1 tsp)
To cook:
  • 110g red chilies, about 5 large pieces
  • 460g large red onions
  • 30g garlic, about 5 cloves
  • 20g ginger
  • 20g tamarind, seeds removed & soaked in ¼ cup water
  • 21g sweet thick soy sauce, about 1 tbsp
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1g salt (1 tsp)
  • 3/4c cooking oil

Serves: 6 (as a side dish)

At least two hours or the day before cooking
  1. Slice beef into 4cm x 4cm x 1cm cuts. Don’t worry if it’s not exact.
Like so
  1. Marinade beef with sweet thick soy sauce, pepper, salt and sugar. Mix thoroughly, remove excess liquids or transfer beef to a ziplock bag, cover, and marinade in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.
Marinated beef. Use gloves if you’d prefer to keep your hands clean.
Preparing the aromatics
  1. Peel and cut garlic, onions and ginger into smaller chunks.
  2. Using a pestle and mortar, bash garlic, onions and ginger into a medium coarseness. You can bash them together, separately, or in portions. Avoid using a food processor, as you want the texture to be chunky and somewhat irregular. Set aside.
Garlic, onions and ginger cut small ready to be bashed. Don’t overfill your mortar like we did here or you’ll just end up with a mess! This is for illustration purposes only.
Put your back into it
The kind of uneven texture you’re looking for
  1. Remove chili stems and cut into smaller pieces. Using the same pestle and mortar, bash and bruise the chili to a medium coarse texture. Transfer chili to the same bowl as the bashed garlic, onions and ginger.
The chili is smashed but its skin is still intact
Together at last!
Frying the beef dendeng
  1. Add oil to a heavy bottomed pot and bring it to a deep-frying temperature (about 180°C to 200°C) over high heat. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, you’ll notice the oil start to smoke, and that’s when you know it’s ready.
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Can you see the heat and smoke rising from it?
  1. With the fire still on high heat, fry marinated beef until dark and crispy, about 4 minutes. Keep the beef in a single layer while frying, so do them in batches if necessary. Don’t forget to let the oil heat up again between batches as the temperature will drop when the beef goes in. Transfer cooked beef to a colander to drain excess oil. Turn heat off, but don’t throw the oil away.
Beef frying away
This darkness and crispiness is what we’re looking for
  1. Once beef is cooked, use a pestle and a flat mortar to bash the beef slices thin. If you don’t have a flatter mortar, a hard, durable surface, like a very thick chopping board, will suffice.
Bash bash bash! If you have older kids, they’d be perfect for this job!
Time to cook the rest of the dish
  1. Get a fresh heavy bottomed pot out and use a sieve to transfer half of the oil that was used to fry the beef earlier.
  2. Heat the oil over high heat then add bashed garlic, onions, ginger and chili and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Fry chilies, garlic, onions and ginger together. Use a fresh pot!
  1. After 10 minutes, add tamarind juice. Use a sieve to avoid chunky pulpy bits from going into the pot.
  2. Add salt, sweet thick soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Stir to mix and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
It glistens!
  1. Add bashed beef. Stir to coat and mix evenly and cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add beef
Stir to mix thoroughly
  1. Serve with hot plain rice. If cooking this for Eid or special occasions, beef dendeng also goes well nasi impit, lemang and lodeh gravy.
Extra tips
  1. While tenderloin is ideal, you can also use lesser cuts of meat for this dish as it will get bashed anyway.
  2. You might be tempted to, but don’t bash the chili together with the garlic, onions and ginger ok!
  3. You can also cook the beef first and the rest of the ingredients later or the next day. Just don’t forget to sieve and keep the oil aside to be used later.
  4. Don’t forget to sieve the oil as it ensures the burnt bits don’t get through, which will flavour your dish with bitter undertones.
  5. Dendeng cooked today tastes even better tomorrow.
  6. Beef dendeng can also be frozen and reheated for eating another day, making this an excellent dish to cook in advance.
  7. Some like their beef slices smaller in their dendeng. Instead of cutting them small before deep frying the beef, trying cutting them smaller after you’ve bashed them instead. This way you don’t have to worry about adjusting the frying time, and you won’t have a million small pieces of beef to flatten! And don’t worry too much if the sizes are a little uneven.

With this recipe, there’s really no need to order your beef dendeng anymore. In fact, you may be tempted to make it almost every week instead! Although what with the oil and all, you may not want to make this dish a part of your everyday diet either.

Do enjoy making this surprisingly easy dish. We can’t wait to see how your beef dendeng turns out. Don’t forget to hashtag us with #butterkicap to show us your dendeng!


More articles:

Lodeh Recipe: a Hearty and Rich Vegetable Soup

Beef Rendang: a Traditional Dish the Traditional Way

Chicken Rendang: A Classic Rendang Recipe

Butterkicap Team

We're just a small group of friends who love food, culture and Malaysia. We saw the rise of mediocre food, deteriorating relationships and missed the good old days of Malaysia where food was good, homes were warmer and full of friends and family. So we rolled up our sleeves, and made Butterkicap with the hope that it will bring people and flavors home.

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