Rendang Express: A Beefy Solution for Overseas Malaysians


A Rendang Dilemma

With Hari Raya (Eid al-Fitr to the rest of the world) just around the corner, Rendang is one of those dishes that define the holiday season for us Malaysians. An authentic Rendang recipe, however, is not your everyday dish that can simply be thrown together. It typically takes 3-hours or more of cooking time and requires a long list of ingredients which may seem intimidating to most people. If you’re staying in Malaysia, the solution is simple. You can just buy delicious ready-made Rendang from a supplier or, if you’re going to make it yourself, the ingredients are accessible from any supermarket.

What do you do if you’ve just recently moved abroad? While the ingredients may be available in specialty stores, it will be expensive. I know, as a student, budget is also always a consideration. Having been an overseas student myself, I can tell you there were days that I survived on cereal alone. It was a diet that did wonders for my pocket but not so much for my hips.

A Quick Rendang Recipe for Malaysians Abroad

Celebrating Hari Raya overseas meant that I had figure out how to get a taste of home without denting my budget. As with most cooking dilemmas, I needed to consult with the cooking guru in my life, my mama, affectionately referred to as Aunty Zah or Mak Su. Her solution, “Apa susah sangat! Buat saja Rendang cara express!” Translation, “What is so difficult! Just make rendang the express way!”

Imagine my joy! A Rendang recipe that only takes 2 hours to complete from prep to the dining table! A recipe that she had created to suit those on a budget as well as those who needed to put together food quickly.

It is important this joy be shared, particularly if you’re a homesick student having to celebrate Hari Raya abroad. Check out the recipe below and give it a try.

Rendang Express Recipe

  • 1 ½ kg beef (Tip: if you use good beef, it will reduce your cooking time. Of course if you’re a starving student, you work with what you’ve got)
  • ¼ cup sweet soya sauce
  • 3 big onions finely sliced (Note: shallots are best but can be expensive)
  • 4 lemongrass stalks
  • 1 garlic bulb, peeled
  • 2 inches’ ginger, peeled (Tip: you may choose to roughly slice to make it easier to blend)
  • 200g desiccated coconut (usually 1 packet)
  • 30 pieces of dried chili
  • 1 tbsp. turmeric
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. assam jawa (tamarind) in a bowl with ¼ cup water
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 ½ cups thick coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup of oil



Marinate the beef with ¼ cup of soya sauce for at least 1 hour. This step can be prepared way ahead of time. If you are preparing this step the day before, just pop it into a Tupperware, cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook.


Finely slice the first 3 inches of the lemon grass stalk from the root. Save the rest of the stalk. We will use this later to throw into the dish to add extra aroma.


Blend your finely diced lemongrass, peeled garlic, chilli and ginger along with ½ cup of water.


Heat your wok or deep frying pan with ½ cup oil and fry your onions in the wok until it turns yellow. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Then add the lemongrass stalks that you put aside earlier. Let it fry for an additional 5 minutes.


Add the marinated beef and fry until just cooked. About 5 minutes.


Next, add the blended lemongrass, garlic, chilli, ginger mix and stir until the beef is coated through. Then add the turmeric.


Stir in the coconut milk and lower the fire to low-to-medium heat and leave the dish to bubble and simmer until the beef really softens or as we say in Malay, “jadi empok”. This may take approximately 30 to 45 minutes depending on your beef.


Toss in the salt and stir through followed by the desiccated coconut.


Add brown sugar.


Finally pour in assam jawa or Tamarind. If you used assam jawa with seeds, run the liquid through a sifter so you don’t get any seeds into your Rendang.


Leave your Rendang to simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.


The last step is to taste it. You can add a bit more salt, sugar or assam jawa, if required.


Eat and Be Happy

Serve the Rendang with hot rice and enjoy it with your friends. Ooooh! That first bite of Rendang with steaming rice is happiness. You’ll be smiling and reminiscing about happy times at home.

Here’s a good tip. Make sure that you have made enough for leftovers. You can store it in the fridge and make a Rendang sandwich the next day! It is a life-saver when you’re hungry, don’t want to spend more money on buying a meal outside or just craving Rendang but don’t have the time to make a whole new batch.

On a side note, if you’re in Malaysia and about to move overseas, there are some items I recommend you pack with you. It’ll make your stay and Raya overseas feel more like home. Click here for the list.


Learn Essential Malay Cooking

For those wanting to learn how to cook some essential Malaysian dishes, you can do so with my mom! She has classes ranging from how to make roti jala to nasi tomato to roti canai.

Come on over and cook with Aunty Zah at her home. You’ll have tea, coffee, learn to cook, enjoy the fruits of your labour and get to know one amazing big-hearted lady. Mari makan. Click here to register!

Elina Jasmi

Elina aspires to eat well always, make healthy choices occasionally (hey, what is life without dessert), laugh as often as possible and discover more sinful eats to rave about.

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