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Beef Rendang

Many years ago a friend of mine highly recommended me this cook book by Mrs Lee Chin Koon (the mother of Singapore's Prime Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew). She found the instructions to be very easy to follow and had already tried out a few of the recipes with delicious results. While I was tempted to go straight to the nearest book store to pick it up, I realized that it would end up sitting on the shelf like a white elephant for years: my mom reigns over the kitchen and is a great cook...

Funnily enough, I came upon this book by chance while on vacation in Singapore recently and immediately bought it without hesitation. Out of the many delicious recipes to try out, I opted for a beef rendang: it's really one of my favourite dishes!

For those unfamiliar with this fine delicacy, Beef Rendang is very popular in Malaysia and Singapore - traditionally prepared by the Malay community during festive occasions. The recipe originates from Padang in West Sumatra, hence the name Nasi Padang which is sometimes used as well.

Beef Rendang

(taken from The New Mrs. Lee's Cookbook: Nonya Cuisine)

  • 1 onion
  • 600 g beef shin
  • 500 g grated coconut
  • 1 rounded tbsp tamarind (asam) pulp
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt


  • 4 slices galangal
  • 4 slices ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 15 dried chillies or 2 tbsp pounded red chillies
  • 1 stalk lemon grass
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
Beef rendang ingredients


  1. Soak the dried chillies for the paste in hot water. Deseed them and roughly chop the soaked dried chilies (use a lot less if you are not used to spiciness).
  2. Peel and roughly slice the galangal, ginger and garlic.
  3. Pound/blend them together with the coriander powder and cumin. Add the peeled and bruised lemon grass last (use the white portion only).

Cooking the rendang

  1. Slice the beef into big or small pieces depending on your preference.
  2. Peel and slice the onion. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the coconut milk using 570 ml water.
  4. Prepare the tamarind marinade: soak the tamarind pulp in 120 ml of warm water for 5 minutes. Squeeze the seeds and fiber with your fingers to extract as much juice and flavor as possible. Strain and discard fibers.
  5. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to boil then simmer uncovered until the sauce has reduced by half. Cover and simmer for 30 mins until the meat is tender.
The Verdict

The sauce was awesome and tasted as good as I was hoping, but I can't say the same for the beef: it was unfortunately very tough. It seems that I don't have much luck in cooking beef: every time I cook some, the meat never turns out tender. When we are having steak, it's Pierre who cooks it but I so wanted to eat beef rendang.:-( Michèle loved this dish even though my beef was tough. She suggested that I use the normal beef next time as the beef shin takes a long long time to cook for it to be tender. Most likely I didn't cook the meat long enough (that's Michèle's opinion too). If the meat is cooked correctly, it should falls apart and melt in your mouth.


I can't get any freshly grated coconut here so I replace it with 750 ml of can coconut milk.

beef rendang
#1, by Andy (08/23/2007)

I absolutely love Beef Rendang! Not sure what beef shin is though. Is that like a shank? I don't see a bone in there.

#2, by tigerfish (08/23/2007)

I usually use beef flank for stir fry and they turn out tender
You did cut against the grain?

#3, by eastmeetswestkitchen (08/23/2007)

I love the new Mrs. Lee cookbook, and your beef rendeng looks delicious!

#4, by Judy (08/23/2007)

You mean to say, Mr Lee Kuan Yew's mother had a recipe book published?

Easy recipe but I don't have galangal. I suppose I could use ginger.

#5, by indosungod (08/23/2007)

Pamela, that Beef Rendang looks just like it did at the restaurant (we had lamb Rendang) though and I have been wanting to make it with lamb or goat probably. Looks delicious.

#6, by isha (08/23/2007)

my fav food, that looks so yummy, ohh im hungry now:-)

#7, by Kelly Mahoney (08/23/2007)

What a great dish. I'll have to check for that book the next time I'm at my favorite discount book store.

#8, by Susan from Food Blogga (08/23/2007)

Oh, I'm so glad I found this recipe. My husband's been on a beef kick lately, and I'm looking for some new ideas. Tamarind, lemongrass, and chiles sound like a sensational flavor combo! Thanks!

#9, by Cynthia (08/23/2007)

I may not be able to get any galangal so can I substitue with an additional 4 slices of ginger? Lemon grass is rarely available here, what do you suggest I substitute with as I would really like to try this dish. Looks fantastic!

#10, by Amy (08/23/2007)

I have bad luck with beef sometimes too. Maybe a different cut of beef would work better? I love this recipe though, the flavors sound delicious!

#11, by Kevin (08/23/2007)

This looks good. I recently tried tamarind but I will have to look for the galangal and the lemon grass.

#12, by Wandering Chopsticks (08/24/2007)

This is one of my favorite dishes. I like it with extra sauce so I can spoon it over rice or dip with roti canai.:-)

I think if you just braise the beef longer it should be soft.

#13, by Lydia (08/24/2007)

I first tasted beef rendang in Malaysia -- which was where I first was introduced to Nonya cooking. I have most of the ingredients in my pantry, and some beef in the freezer. I can make this tomorrow for dinner!

#14, by The Cooking Ninja (08/24/2007)

@Andy: The shin of beef is from the front leg and the leg cut is from the hind limb. They are excelent for stews and casseroles.

@tigerfish: I think so but I could be wrong too without knowing.

@eastmeetswestkitchen: oh, you got her book too:-) Did you get the volume 2 also?

@Judy: Yes, incredible isn't it. My friend got the old version (lots of recipes but few pics) whereas I got the newer version updated by her granddaughter.

From my research, it says that ginger mixed with a little lemon juice can be used as a substitute for galangal. If you do try it out using this as substitute, can you let me know how it tastes?

@Indosungod: That sounds delicious too.:-)

@isha: Me too and I just had breakfast:-p

@Kelly: Hope you can find it there. If not, you can get it at Amazon.:-)

@Susan from food blogga: Hope your hubby loves it:-)

@Cynthia: From my research, it says that you can substitute galangal with ginger mixed with a little lemon juice. As for lemon grass, if you can find dried lemon grass, that will do too. Although it says that there is no real perfect substitution for lemon grass, it did suggest 2 solutions as near substitution:

  1. Lemon zest with small amounts of fresh ginger. Approximately 1/2 Tbs. combination total for 1 lemon grass stalk.
  2. A few leaves of lemon balm or lemon leaves. Approximately 2 leaves for 1 lemon grass stalk.

As for the dried lemon grass, mix 1 Tbs. with 1/4 cup of hot water; steep for a few minutes. Strain mixture through a fine sieve or a coffee filter to remove lemon grass particles. The resulting liquid is a lemon grass concentrate. It should be added to your stock at the beginning of the recipe. This portion substitutes for 1 lemon grass stalk.
@Amy: Yeah, I will definitely try this again but with a different cut of beef.:-)

@Kevin: Hope you can find both in your local Asian store.:-)

@Wandering Chopsticks: Me too. I love it with lots of the sauce over my rice:-) Perhaps I will cook it in a slow cooker next time:-)

@Lydia: Oh...nonya dishes are delicious. I'm so lucky because my moms cooks nonya style.:-)

#15, by miche (08/24/2007)

my malay colleague to me that the best part from the cow's meat to cook beef rendang is the batang pinang. you know what's that in English?

#16, by IronEaters (08/25/2007)

*drool* the beef rendang look so scrumptious. I can eat that with lots of rice.LOL.

#17, by wokandspoon (08/25/2007)

I love beef rendang. And I still haven't seen freshly grated coconut anywhere in Europe yet!

#18, by The Cooking Ninja (08/26/2007)

@miche: no, but I will ask my Malay friend next time I see her online.:-) Thanks for the tip.

@IronEaters: me too:-D

@wokandspoon: Not over here in France too - I have to check it out in Paris but they do sell coconut in the big supermarket. I didn't courage to buy one and try to extract the coconut flesh myself.:-p

#19, by Orchidea (08/27/2007)

This beef look absolutely delicious!
I am copying the recipe and want to try it.

#20, by keropokman (08/31/2007)

ooo... so sedap!

#21, by Cynthia (09/02/2007)

Thanks, Pamela. I did not get any lemon grass but will still try to make this today. I just read your notes on the toughness of the meat... I am considering cooking the dish in a pressure cooker for a few mintues so that I don't have to worry about the toughness of the meat. Will let you know how it turned out.

#22, by The Cooking Ninja (09/02/2007)

@Cynthia: I hope your beef rendang turns out delicious. Can't wait to hear about your dish.

#23, by Arachnae (02/05/2009)

Beef shin is fabulous for Rendang as it can stand long slow cooking without drying out. It needs to be cooked for many hours at a low heat; any less than two hours you risk it still being tough. I personally cook mine for four and it just melts. Fab recipe!

#24, by The Cooking Ninja (02/07/2009)

@Arachnae: Thanks.:-) I cooked it for more than 2 hours and it was still tough. Perhaps I didn't cook it correctly.:-) I'll try again next time.

#25, by Chris (03/29/2009)

I cooked this today, according to the recipe you posted (though I only used 1/3 of the chillies). It was really good! A lot more sour than what I'm used to, though - I think next time I'll cut down on the tamarind.

I used pre-cut chunks of "stewing beef" from the store and it turned out fairly tender, though it never reached that melt-in-your-mouth consistency.

Thanks for posting this, I think I'll try getting my own copy of this cookbook!

#26, by The Cooking Ninja (04/03/2009)

@Chris: Glad you like this dish. The gravy is so delicious. If you add too much tamarind, you can balance it a bit with some sugar. As for the melt-in-your-mouth meat, I found out that to get that, one has to slow cook it at low heat for a long long time until it literally breaks up - 4 hours of cooking it might achieve that effect or else invest in a slow cooker.:-)

#27, by Jeanna (09/06/2009)

Hey, I love beef rendang, as well. But Mrs. Lee forgot the most important ingredient: coconut milk. Coconut milk is NOT a substitute for grated coconut. You must use coconut milk, a lot of it, and then cook the rendang for 2 to 4 hours. Most Indonesians cook it for 8 hours! Beef rendang, as you know, comes from Indonesia; not Singapore or Malaysia, and Indonesians have it in their homes and resturaunts everyday, just about. I know this recipe well, because my husband is Indonesian, and therefore, I have tons of Indonesian friends. We cook together for their holidays, and if I were to cook rendang without coconut milk, they would look at me like I had lost my mind. You said you used a can of coconut milk, right? Try cooking rendang without it and you'll taste a significant difference; it may not taste bad, but then it wouldn't be beef rendang. Oh yeah, Mrs. Lee also forgot shallots, about 10 of them...

#28, by threesloth (12/05/2009)

to Jeanna, it already say its Nonya Cuisine so the way the Nonyas cook doesn't mean it must be the way the Indonesians or you cook. isn't it?

#29, by minime (08/02/2011)

hi...i recommend you try putting a silver spoon or a fork on top of your beef while cooking to make it tender...or you may use pressure cooker...

#30, by The Cooking Ninja (08/02/2011)

@minime: Thanks for the tip.:-) My uncle told me to get a slow cooker. LOL

#31, by Trisny Andrianty (fromJakarta Indonesia) (11/16/2011)

Actually Rendang its Indonesian food not malaysia. Bcoz many of Indonesian ppl dat live in malaysia bring that food n malaysian ppl love dat too.....so its easier 2 find in Malaysia. To make rendang ussually need abt 8 hours 2 cook.....till the colour bcome brown or black....use small burner....n stirr view times....

#32, by Rendang Connection (08/12/2012)

Nice blog!

Rendang is one of the most popular dishes from Padang, West Sumatra. Padang is known by their delicious meals made from coconut milk. You can make it spicy or mild, depend how you like it.:-)