Beef Rendang – My Kitchen Collections

I have a problem. I like to collect things, things that I don’t really need, or, items that I don’t need vast quantities of. I may have gotten part of it from my mum. After all, this very blog is named after her wooden spoon collection.

Today, I’m starting a new series where I will show you some of my kitchen collections. You will get to have a squiz at some of the random kitchen related objects that I have, for unknown reasons, decided to collect and I will get to show you that I really do put these collections to good use…mostly :)

We are starting with my mortar and pestle collection and I’ll show you a great beef rendang recipe.

mortar and pestles

Does one person really need 6 mortar and pestles? The answer is of course no. Can I justify it by saying that most of them are different textures or sizes? No, not really, but I can tell you that I often use these and seeing them lined up on a shelf in my kitchen makes me very happy indeed.


They also hold sentimental value to me. For example, the large green one, was a birthday gift from mum and dad many years ago. Perhaps my 20th birthday?

Some other recipes that utilise a mortar and pestle are this fantastic spice rub for ribs, meat and salmon. This cheat’s smoked chicken with cumin and coffee and my Banh Mi recipe.

I always thought that rendang was specifically a Malaysian dish, but apparently it actually originated in Indonesia. Well Indonesia, I promise I don’t want to take away your glory, but I do know that it is also very common in Malaysia and the rendangs that I had in Singapore, had always been made either by Malaysians, or in Malay restaurants.

This recipe is based on one that I had written down in one of my multiple notebooks full of scribbled recipes (another collection) and unfortunately I cannot find the original source to attribute it to. I do remember that it was a Malaysian recipe though and I feel like it may have first been written down as I was watching an episode of Food Safari on SBS, the original video clip of this episode can be found here.


You will most likely need a trip to the Asian grocer for some of these ingredients. The final result is well worth the shopping trip though.



Galangal is a rhizome, similar to ginger. It is easy to pick out at the grocery store, as it is pinker and harder than ginger. The taste is similar to ginger, but more fragrant and it is damn hard to cut.


malaysian curry powder

You will need a Malaysian curry powder for meat and an Asian thick caramel sauce. You can find both of these at good Asian grocers although sometimes the caramel sauce can be tricky to get. If you can’t find it, substitute about half the amount of it with some kecap manis.


dried chillies

Soaking the dried chillies in hot water like this will start to rehydrate them and soften them. The heat in dried chillies will differ. I like to buy the long red ones from either an Asian or Indian grocer as they seem to have the right amount of heat for this dish, which is hot, but it will not burn your mouth off.


dry fried coconut

Dry fry the desiccated coconut in a wok or frying pan until it is evenly browned like this. I have tried to cheat before and I’ve added the coconut in without browning it first. You really do get a better depth of flavour and colour by taking a few minutes to dry fry it first though.



You only use the very base of the lemongrass, discarding the top woody parts.



The galangal really is quite fibrous and hard, so it needs a good bash in the mortar and pestle to help break it up. Even cutting the skin off and chopping it into pieces this size will need some muscle, so use a good, sharp knife to help you.


mortar and pestle

The ginger and lemongrass will also benefit from a bash in the mortar and pestle before going into the food processor with the rest of the paste ingredients. A pinch of sea salt flakes in the mortar will act as an abrasive and will make the job easier. Unless you have some kind of super powered processor, the ginger, lemongrass and galangal will not break up properly without a grind in the M&P first.



Malaysian’s call this red paste a rempah and they use it as a base in many of their dishes.

Process the rempah ingredients for 1-2 minutes or until everything is very broken up and is a quite smooth paste. Add additional chilli-soaking water to assist the paste to come together if required.


kaffir lime

Cut the kaffir lime leaves very finely with a sharp knife. It is a practiced skill, that as you can see, is not one that I have mastered yet. Never mind, just get it as fine as you can and it should do the trick. I freeze any leftover leaves for later use.


browning meat

Seal the beef to get a really nice browning on all of the edges. This will impart flavour into the curry and those brown bits on the bottom will be picked up when you fry the rempah in the next step.


frying rempah

Be careful as the rempah will spit a lot as you fry it. It will take about 3-4 minutes and will darken and become very fragrant.



Add in the coconut milk  along with the dry fried coconut, curry powder and some water and let the slow cooking begin.


slow cooking

The curry will take around 2 to 2½ to cook. During this time the sauce will become quite dry and will gradually darken in colour. The meat will also become tender and will soak up all of those delicious flavours.


Beef Rendang | The Wooden Spoons

Served with rice, this makes for a hearty Winter meal.This recipe makes a lot but it freezes really well, so make up a big batch and enjoy it for a few meals to come.



Beef Rendang

Ingredients – Serves 5-6

  • 6 long red dried chillies, cut or snipped into large pieces
  • 1 cup of desiccated coconut
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, base part only, finely chopped
  • 3cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped into medium sized pieces
  • 3cm piece of galangal, peeled and chopped into medium sized pieces
  • 3 large eschalots (about 170g worth), peeled and roughly chopped into large chunks
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup plus an additional 2 tbs of vegetable oil
  • 1kg of chuck steak or another beef casserole cut, cut into large chunks
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, stalks removed and very finely chopped
  • 4 tbs of Malaysian curry powder for meat
  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • 2 tbs of Asian thick caramel sauce, alternatively use 1 tbs of kecap manis



  1. Place the chillies and their seeds into a small heat proof container and cover with 1 cup of just boiled water. Let the chillies rehydrate in the water for 1 hour or until they have softened.
  2. While the chillies are rehydrating, toast the coconut by putting it into a dry wok or frying pan over medium high heat. Toss the coconut constantly for about 3 minutes, or until it is evenly browned and toasted. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. To make the rempah, place the lemongrass, ginger and galanagal into a mortar and pestle with a pinch of sea salt flakes and grind and bash until it has become softened and has a thick, paste-like consistency.
  4. In a processor, place the pounded lemongrass mix, the rehydrated chillies, eschalots and garlic and 2-3 tbs of the water that the chillies were in. Process for 1-2 minutes or until everything is very broken up and is a quite smooth paste. Add additional chilli-soaking water to assist the paste to come together if required.
  5. Over a medium high heat, add the 2 tbs portion of oil into a large, enamel pot or heavy based casserole dish. Once hot, brown the meat in batches, seasoning with salt. Set aside in a bowl once sealed and browned on all sides.
  6. Once all of the meat is browned and set aside, add the ¼ cup portion of oil to the pan and then fry the rempah and kaffir lime leaves until it is very fragrant and has started to darken in colour. This should take around 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add the meat and their resting juices back to the casserole pot, along with the dry fried coconut, coconut milk, curry powder and 1 cup of water.
  8. Bring up to the boil, then reduce to a very low simmer for 2 to 2½ hours, or until the meat is very tender, the sauce has very little liquid left and has darkened to a deep brown colour.
  9. Stir in the thick caramel to season it and season with additional salt too if required.
  10. Serve hot with rice. Leftovers keep well in the fridge and freezes well too.


Rendang | The Wooden Spoons





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Hi! I’m Taryn. The Wooden Spoons is a food blog and collection of wooden spoons, recipes and stories. I’m a Canberra fan-girl with a passion for all things food. I love South East Asian food, fusion food done well and slow cooked anything. I don’t get quinoa, have a mild phobia of milk touching my skin and custard from a package freaks me out. Thanks for joining me on my cooking and food adventures.
  1. Farja Reply

    Farja would love to try (to taste) this recipe…..hint hint.

    • Taryn Reply

      Hint taken Faja xx

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