Recipe: Straits Chinese Style Rendang for your festive feasting

·3 min read

By: Wilson Wang

Rempah (Spice mix)

Wet Spices

15-25 dried chillies (depending on how hot you like it) - soak in water to soften for at least 30mins

Two fingers of ginger

Two fingers of turmeric (kunyit)

Two fingers of galangal (lengkuas)

10 cloves of garlic

One and a half (large) yellow onions

3 stalks of lemongrass

4 turmeric leaves

A handful of Kaffir Lime leaves

Dry Spices/Ingredients

10 cloves

3 star anise

2 sticks of cinnamon (one if using Sri Lankan cinnamon)

5 pods of cardamom

2 teaspoons of coriander seeds


1kg of Beef (tough cuts)


400ml of coconut milk

1 litre of coconut water

200g of shredded coconut (coconut noir preferred otherwise white is fine)

To taste

1/3 block of Gula Melaka (use a cleaver to shred it off)

2 teaspoons of salt


A massive pot

A tool to stir (wooden spoon is best)

Prep work:

Pound all the dry ingredients except cinnamon and star anise into a rough powder

Pound all the roots (turmeric, galangal) into a paste

Chop lemongrass finely then pound to separate them into short, thin threads

Blitz finely garlic, chillies, onions and put them separately into bowls

Slice thinly 3/4 of kaffir like leaves

Slice thinly 3/4 of turmeric leaves

(Set rest of leaves aside to sprinkle on top before serving)

Toast shredded coconut in a heated oven at 170 degrees for 40 mins. Take out and stir at least twice during roasting

Pour some oil into the pot. Make sure the base is coated with a layer of oil (grapeseed or groundnut is best).

Fry onions first until softened and slightly brown

Add garlic to fry until soft

Make a well in the middle, add another few tablespoons of oil and plop in the dry ingredients, and fry until fragrance is released. Mix thoroughly.

Make another well. Add more oil and dump in the paste of roots and lemongrass and mix everything in.

Now stir in the chillies mixture.

Let mixture reduce for 10 minutes - when the oil starts to separate a little, your rempah is set!

Chuck the beef (cut into cubes) into the mix and stir to coat beef evenly in the rempah. Add a little oil prior if things are sticking to pot.

Once thoroughly coated add in 5/6 of toasted coconut.

Add coconut milk

Add coconut water

Let it come to a boil then lower heat to simmer

Keep stirring-at least every 10 mins. And keep scraping off any bits that are stuck to bottom. They may look brown but most of the time they are caramelised, not burnt. Unless of course if you leave them on too long! The reduction and softening process will take at least one and a half to two hours on the stove for this amount (amounts augmented to larger volumes will take much longer).

The dryness of the gravy depends on your preference. I personally prefer a very thick gravy that’s almost dry. Some like totally dry paste that sticks to meat. Some like more wet (a trick to make it even richer is to add 200ml it coconut milk to it after it is dry or just stop when it’s wet enough for you).

Season with gula Melaka and salt to taste. Add much more if you like it very sweet (then it becomes Kelantan style). Salt is a must though.

Additional notes:

You can get whole coconuts and chuck in the scooped flesh too for coconut water

If you can’t get freshly shredded coconut, ask for Kerisik (usually available at supermarkets or provision shops) and use 100g instead of 200g

Beef shins and rumps are good. Don’t bother with expensive cuts

If you can get your hands on coconut nectar wine, a generous splash of it is amazing at the end of cooking.

Serve with omelette and achar on rice

Leftovers are great as toast with emmental (or other nutty types like harvati) cheese or stir-fried Bee Hoon or Chapatis. Totally versatile.

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