Growing up in Malaysia, I always looked forward to going to the home of one of my classmates for Hari Raya Puasa, a celebration at the end of Ramadan. There was never a special invitation to visit; Malaysian festivities are often open houses, so friends and neighbors of other faiths and ethnicities can drop in to share lavish and plentiful foods. Every year, my friend’s mother would prepare beef rendang, an intensely aromatic, rich, slow-simmered dish, and as I approached her front door, the beef’s delicious aroma was just too much to bear; I couldn’t wait to eat it. Even though I had to take two buses to get to my friend’s house—a long journey for me then—the rendang was worth the effort.
View a slideshow to learn more about the interplay of ingredients in this rendang.
Step 1Start by cooking the whole spices—cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon pieces, and star anise—to infuse the oil with their flavor.
Step 2 Stir constantly as you cook the ground spices to keep them from sticking to the pan and burning.
Step 3 The flavor base, a purée made from aromatics like garlic, ginger, and shallot, will sizzle, darken, and become very fragrant.
Step 4 Stir the beef to make sure it’s well coated with the spices and aromatics; you’re not trying to brown it here.
Step 5 The tamarind concentrate and coconut milk will cook down slowly to become a very thick sauce that coats the meat.
Step 6 The crowning touch is toasted coconut, which blends into the sauce, adding extra texture and flavor to the finished dish.
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