Nyonya Style Slow-Cooked Beef Rendang Recipe

Hari Raya Korban or Hari Raya Aidiladha is coming soon and I bet our Muslim friends are all getting busy in the kitchen thinking of what dishes to make for this special day.

Since they will be receiving bags and bags of meat (if their neighbourhood mosque or they themselves decide to slaughter some cows this year), why not make some delicious beef rendang to go with your ketupat, lemang and, of course, nasi impit?

But, before that, let me share with you a short explanation of the origins of the beef rendang dish.

The Origins of Beef Rendang

Rendang in Malaysia actually originates from the Minangkabau ethnic community in West Sumatra. They were the ones who introduced this delicious festive dish to the locals here when they migrated to Malaya.

The name ‘rendang’ actually comes from the Sumatran word ‘randang’ which means ‘slowly’. This obviously refers to the caramelizing process that takes at least 2 hours in order to get that rich caramelized tender beef flavour that we all love.

Longer Hours, More Tender Meat

Traditionally, it takes between 8 hours to 3 days to cook rendang! Due to the long cooking process, this dish can be stored for months in the refrigerator or at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

This is because the long cooking process has applied enough heat to the meat until has been cured and able to be kept for long. However, this does not apply to my recipe. Thank god for modern cooking techniques! The cooking process for my recipe is just 2 to 3 hours.

Talking about it has surely made you want to have it now. So, enough chit chat and let’s get to the kitchen, ready your ingredients and start the fire!


a) Main Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 kg of beef , cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 6 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 star anise
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 3 lemongrass, cut into 3 inch in length and pounded
  • 1 kg thick coconut milk or santan
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp, soaked in some warm water for the juice and discard the seeds
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, very finely sliced
  • 6 tablespoons kerisik (toasted coconut)
  • 2 tablespoon of gula melaka or palm sugar or cane sugar
  • salt to taste

b) Spice Paste

  • 3 lemongrass, white part only (pounded)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch ginger
  • 13 dried chilies, soaked in warm water and remove seeds
  • 6 shallots
  • 2 inch galangal, sliced


1. Blend the spice ingredients into a paste.

2. Marinate the beef chunks with the spice paste for 1 hour.

3. Heat the oil in a wok, fry the cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamon and lemon grass for 5 minutes till you smell the aroma.

4. Add the beef and spice paste for 2 minute. 

5. Add water, coconut milk and tamarind juice, at medium heat for 10 minutes.

6. Add 3 kaffir lime leaves, kerisik (learn making it here), Gula Melaka or palm sugar or brown sugar. Keep stirring till well combined.

7. Lower the heat, simmer for another 1 1/2 hours with lid covered until the meat is tender and the gravy has dried up with a nice dark brown caramelized colour.

8. You can add salt and sugar to taste. Serve with steamed rice

Tips and Tricks

  • You do not need to use expensive beef cuts to make rendang because tender beef cuts will turn tougher due to the long cooking process. The right types of beef cuts to use are short beef ribs or beef stew.
  • You can tenderize the beef cuts by marinating them in yogurt for 3 hours.
  • The secret to a good rendang is in the spice paste. You need to saute them gradually in sequence till each aroma and flavour is released. This requires patience and time. Don’t rush or you will regret it!
  • To re-heat the beef rendang, first thaw the frozen ones in the fridge the night before. You can warm it up with a microwave or re-steam it at medium heat for 20 minutes.
  • Never re-cook them directly on a cooking pan as it will dry up the beef easily.

Do You Like It?

There are so many versions of rendang recipes out there but if you want a fool-proof rendang recipe, this is the one for you!

Don’t like beef? Try this chicken rendang recipe by Butterkicap. If you are in a rush and still want to make rendang, Butterkicap’s express rendang recipe will cut the hours of long cooking to make you able to enjoy it faster.

Whatever you may choose to make, be sure to share it with your loved ones because food tastes even better when you have company. Salam Aidiladha and happy holidays!

Justine Lim

With love for the freshest and natural ingredients, Justine Lim aspires to recreate heritage Malaysian recipes into modern, elegant-looking delicacies. Catch more of her delicious creations on her Instagram profile, @justinescakesnkueh

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