Rendang is a traditional recipe, very famous in Malaysia and Indonesia. The origins of the dish varies (depending on which country/ nationality you ask!) but one thing is certain: rendang is very delicious. It is a little time-consuming to cook, and requires a certain labour of love. I know there are chefs out there who have claimed to create "time saving rendang" where they omit certain ingredients or reduce the cooking time; to each its' own, but generally rendang is known to take at least 2 hours to cook.
Depending from which state you are in Malaysia, the ingredients might very slightly, but the main ingredients should include meat, coconut milk, and kerisik (grated and toasted coconut - it's different from dessicated coconut). Some people tend to omit the kerisik as it provides a nutty depth to the rendang.
During Hari Raya Aidilfitri (eid al-Fitr), rendang is traditionally served with "nasi himpit" (compact rice cubes) or "lemang" (glutinous rice + coconut milk cooked in bamboo hollows), but it's also a famous dish eaten with one of our top national breakfast, "nasi lemak" (literally means fat rice). You may eat this with bread as a snack. Rendang is really flexible, and you may opt to use beef instead of chicken. My grandma makes duck rendang every eid.
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Rendang Ayam (Chicken Rendang)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 - 3 Hours
2 whole chicken - I used a mix of chicken thigh
1 dried tamarind slice (asam keping)
Kaffir lime leaves - 2 - 3 pieces whole (daun limau purut)
Fresh turmeric leaves - 3 pieces - slice roughly (daun kunyit)
Fresh coconut milk (santan) - around 1 cup
2 - 3 tablespoon roasted coconut (kerisik - adjust based on your taste preference)
1 lemongrass stalk - bruise the thick part of the stalk with a pestle or something equally heavy
Palm sugar or brown sugar
Blend together/ or using a mortar and pestle, beat together:
1 whole big red onion (bawang merah besar)
4 - 5 shallots (bawang merah kecik)
3 - 5 garlic cloves (bawang putih)
4 lemongrass stalks, cut roughly first (serai)
2 inch ginger (halia)
2 inch galangal (lengkuas)
1.5 inch fresh turmeric (kunyit hidup) or equivalent of turmeric powder
30 green birds' eye chilli OR your own home made cili kisar OR cili giling - adjust based on spice preference
- Heat some oil in a pan. Over medium heat, add your blended items with the bruised lemograss + kaffir lime leaves. Stir continuously, making sure not to burn the items. You want to saute the ingredients, not burn it. I prefer to cook over medium low heat for a while so the onions cook properly - around 20 minutes. The Malay term is "naik minyak" which means when the ingredients have sauted properly, you will see the oil rise to the top over the ingredients, and the beautiful aroma of the ingredients rises.
- Add in the chicken parts and let it simmer. Stir continuously. Depending on your pan/ stove, your dish may burn easily (as you can see, some of my chicken skin burned when I left the stove to do other chores for just mere minutes). After a while, the liquid level will rise. This is due to the water and fat content from the chicken. Stir continously until chicken cooks.
- Once your chicken has cooked, reduce the heat/ fire until it's just enough to stay lit, and add in your coconut milk. Add 1 cup of water to the plastic/ container that contained the fresh milk and add to the dish. Stir continuously, this part takes around 1 hour, depending on meat quantity and how patient you are to wait. At this point, the gravy tastes sooooo gooooood and is sooo thick.
- Once the sauce is cooked to your preference (some like it dried, I like it with more liquid gravy to pour over my rice), add in the dried tamarind slice, sugar (I omit sugar for my dish), salt, and stir for around 5 - 10 minutes for the kerisik to mingle with the dish properly.
- Lastly, add in the fresh turmeric leaves, let it cook for 3 minutes and then turn off the heat.
- You may blend the ingredients together or use a mortar and pestle (that's the traditional way) - but I'm a lazy cook hahah
- Wash your chicken and remove the innards and offals to make the dish stay fresh longer. Wash it properly and strain it properly. Season your chicken with salt if you prefer, prior to adding it to the dish.
- I used birds eye chilli + mix of my own home made cili kisar.
- Some people use birds eye chilli, some use cili giling (store bought dried chilli paste which has been boiled and blended) or homemade cili kisar. I made my rendang using around 2 kg mix of chicken thigh + drumstick. Also best if you used chicken on bones, as it stays more juicy and moist due to the long cooking time.
- Orang tua kata (old folks say), to make your dish stay fresh longer, make sure the oil is hot when you add the blended ingredients. If you need any additional oil, preheat the oil in other saucepan.
- I actually remove my chicken once it's cooked to let the gravy simmer and cook as I want to avoid overcooking my chicken.
- To make your own cili kisar, cut two cups of dried chilli in half each and remove the seeds. Let it boil in a saucepan until it softens. Strain, let it cool and then blender to a fine paste (add water if required). You can freeze it or keep it in the fridge.
- For a healthier option, you may choose to use yoghurt instead of coconut milk, but for authenticity sake I have used coconut milk.
- Orang tua kata, to make the dish stay fresh longer, preheat the coconut milk in another saucepan over low heat before adding it to the dish, but I usually just add in the coconut milk unheated because that's just too much work for me
Blending all the ingredients together. I added a little oil and water to make it easier for my poor blender to grind it all together. You can see my kaffir lime leaves in the background.
Step 1: Sauteing all the blended ingredients together with the bruised lemongrass. The pale colour is due to the fact that I didn't add my cili kisar.
You can see the colour has darken, as I have added my cili kisar.
Added the chicken parts. I prefer thick cuts (chicken thighs) and with bones, as this dish takes a while to cook.
Mix the chicken goooood with the rendang paste.
Removing the chicken from the fire once it's almost cooked.
Reduced the heat and added the coconut milk in to let it cook slowly. I added in the kaffir lime leaves here because I completely forgot about it, oops.
If you see the paste starts to bubble/ boil, reduce the heat, otherwise your coconut milk will curdle.
Add in the chicken once your gravy has cooked, let it simmer for another 10 - 15 minutes for the gravy to permeate through the chicken. After that, I add in the kerisik.
I add in the fresh turmeric leaves during the last 5 minutes of the cook. It adds a wonderful aroma and texture to the dish. You may opt to slice it more fine.
The final dish. I didn't get a photo of the dish served, as my in-laws came over an hour after I finished cooking this dish hehe. Perfect timing!