Pah’s Rendang Tok

Its been a rainy winter week, and winter time is the best time to cook dishes that takes ages to make – I can be in the kitchen where it is warm, and this rendang is very well suited to cold weather too. With a bowl of pilaf rice or a plate of nasi lemak, this dish is great.
Rendang Tok is unlike any other sort of rendang you may find out there. It’s a traditional rendang dish from the state of Perak in Malaysia, and its the state my grandmother, Pah, is from. Its sauce is also very much drier in texture than usual. According to Pah, Rendang Tok is an extravagant and rich dish made to last longer than the usual rendang, with the addition of palm sugar and rich spices.
I used a stewing beef cut here, because the hours of cooking will make the meat very soft. Ask your butcher for recommendations.
It does require a lot of preparation and a lot of care while cooking, but the result is worth all the effort. You can use a blender to make a paste of the onions, lemongrass, garlic, galangal and ginger, but I am keen to follow my grandmother’s advice – slice the ingredients by hand.
I also roasted and ground the spices in the pestle and mortar. If you have the spices ready ground, that is not a problem. I am quite lucky that I have a few pieces of fresh turmeric root with me. If you can’t find fresh turmeric root, use 1 tsp of turmeric powder.

Ingredients: (serves 4-6)

1kg of stewing beef, diced
3 tbsps of coriander
2 tbsps of fennel
1 tbsp of cumin
1 tbsp of black pepper
Marinade spices, before roasting
Marinade spices, after roasting and ground to powder.

3 tbsps of palm sugar/coconut sugar, grated

1 thumb sized piece of tamarind soaked in some water, drained of the seeds and bits (just the liquid).

1/2 thumb sized piece of fresh turmeric, pulped into a paste with some chilli. (or 1 tsp of turmeric powder)
1 tbsp of chilli powder
2-3 tbsps of sambal paste (or according to taste)
2 tsps of salt
Paste (for expediency, blend)
2 onions, sliced thinly
4 shallots, sliced thinly
4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
7 lemongrass, sliced thinly
1 thumb sized piece of galangal, chopped fine
2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, sliced thinly
Other Ingredients:

5 pieces of cardamom
5 pieces of cloves
1 cinnamon stick

4-5 tbsps of kerisik
2 cans of coconut milk
2 tbsps of cooking oil


1. Marinade the beef in the marinade ingredients. Mix well and let rest for 2-3 hours.

2. In big pot ( I am using a wok here, or a kuali in Malay), heat the oil. Saute the paste ingredients until fragrant.
3. Add the marinated beef chunks and stir to mix thorougly.
4. Add the coconut milk, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick and the kerisik. Stir to mix thoroughly.
5. Bring mixture to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer gently for 2 hours or until the meat is tender. I had it covered for the first hour, and had it uncovered for the 2nd. Take care to stir the rendang once in a while to prevent sticking/burning at the bottom of the wok.

6. You will notice that the liquid is slowly evaporating. Keep stirring and once the texture has turned ‘dry’, like below,

7. Serve with rice, or nasi lemak.
8. Note: To prevent grumpy husbands from going ‘blech’ when he accidentally bites into a piece of cardamom or clove, when the ingredients are ‘dry’ as pictured above, it is easier to notice and pick out the spices before serving.

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s