Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Brunei Town

A ‘delicious’ tradition

ANN/THE STAR – Beef rendang stands as a revered Malay dish, celebrated for its tender, slow-cooked meat infused with a rich blend of spices and coconut.

Originating from the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia, this traditional Southeast Asian dish has evolved into various regional variations, each reflecting unique culinary influences.

One such variation is Rendang Tok from Perak with its distinguished status as indicated by its name ‘tok’, which means elder or senior.

The nomenclature suggests its association with nobility, possibly stemming from its historical preparation by elders for the royal household and noblemen.

Over time, Rendang Tok has transcended its aristocratic origins to become a beloved dish enjoyed by people from all walks of life, especially during festive occasions like Hari Raya.


According to the traditional recipe, Rendang Tok is prepared with buffalo meat, known to contain a lot of tendon and flavourful meat, although it is now more common to use tougher cuts of beef such as chuck or round. Prolonged simmering is crucial to transform the sinews into tender collagen and to concentrate the flavours of the spices and meat.

Unlike other variations, Rendang Tok is characterised by the absence of gravy.

Instead, the dish is cooked until the sauce caramelises, enveloping the meat in a luscious dark amber glaze. Although a market butcher had advised against using a pressure cooker to tenderise the meat, I found success in doing so.

By pressure cooking for an hour, equivalent to approximately three hours of simmering, I achieved the desired tenderness.

However, as pressure cookers retain liquid, I had to simmer without covering with a lid for an additional 30 minutes to reduce the gravy to the correct thickness.

Another distinctive feature of Rendang Tok is the garnish of julienned turmeric and kaffir lime leaves, which not only make the dish more appealing but also contribute immensely to its flavour.

Rendang Tok is best served with lemang but it also pairs well with rice, turmeric rice, ketupat or bread.

In savouring each tender bite of Rendang Tok, we delight in its sumptuous flavours and pay homage to the vibrant tapestry of Malaysian culinary heritage.

– Dry rub
– 20 grammes (g) cumin
– 20g coriander seeds
– 20g fennel seeds
– One kilogrammes (kg) beef chuck, cut into cubes
– Spice paste
– 150g shallots
– 100g galangal, sliced
– 30g ginger, sliced
– 30g fresh turmeric root, sliced
– 40g dried red chillies, seeded and soaked
– 40g garlic
– Three stalks lemongrass, sliced

– 100 millilitres oil
– Five centimetres cinnamon stick
– Four star anise
– 10 cloves
– One litre coconut milk
– Two stalks lemongrass, crushed
– One tsp sugar to taste
– Two tsp salt to taste
– Three tbsp black pepper
– 450g grated coconut, toasted

– Two turmeric leaves, finely julienned
– Four kaffir lime leaves, finely julienned


Marinate beef with dry rub for about 30 minutes.

Blend the spice ingredients into a fine paste and set aside.

Toast the grated coconut in the wok until dry and fragrant.

Divide into two portions; one to be blended finely into kerisik (paste made of toasted grated coconut) and the other to be sprinkled into the final dish.

Heat the oil to temper the cinnamon, star anise and cloves until fragrant. Stir in the spice paste for about five to 10 minutes until the oil splits. Add the beef, coconut milk and crushed lemongrass.

Cook over medium heat for three hours, stirring occasionally, until gravy is thick and beef is tender.

Alternatively, cook in a pressure pot for an hour until the beef is tender, then depressurise and reduce the liquid with kerisik over medium heat for about 30 minutes until the gravy thickens.

Season to taste with sugar, salt and pepper.

Stir in the toasted coconut until rendang is dry and the oil splits.

Garnish with aromatic leaves and serve with rice or lemang. – Ian Lau