Monday, August 11, 2008

I Heart Beef Rendang...

OK, so I haven't left Melbourne yet… but I cooked some damn tasty food over the weekend and wanted to share... and this sort of relates to the food-obsessed-traveler theme, since it's about a food I tried for the first time when I moved to Melbourne. I remember my first Beef Rendang with Roti Canai like it was yesterday...

When I first moved to Melbourne I was staying in a temporary housing situation that offered breakfasts and dinners during the week, but left us to fend for ourselves during the weekend (and with no kitchen facilities). My first weekend in Melbourne, I still hadn't found my way to the fabulous tram network and I was a bit too jet-lagged and exhausted to venture out as a motorist in search of food. Feeling defeated and desperately hungry, I started to walk towards the crappy fast food restaurant that I'd seen less than a block away, figuring the food would suck but would at least keep me from starving to death... Luckily for me, the culinary gods had other plans. Next door to the crappy fast food was a small "Chinese" restaurant (it seems that most Asian ethnic restaurants here have a mix of cuisines from several different countries, regardless of what ethnic cuisine their sign claims they serve). I wandered in and saw a picture on the menu of something that looked sort of like heaven. It was called, simply, "Roti Canai - Beef."

I fell in love that day with their version of Beef Rendang with Roti Canai (who knows if it was authentic or not, I just know it was ridiculously delicious), and even after I moved to a different suburb I would return to that restaurant for my new favorite comfort food whenever I was having a rough day... or a Friday... or whatever... Then one very bad Friday I returned to the restaurant and ordered my usual... only to find it had been taken off the menu. I was rather depressed about this at first, but soon I resolved that I would one day make something just as delicious in my own kitchen. After many many google searches and much perusing of food photography, I finally figured out that the "Beef" in "Roti Canai - Beef" was actually Beef Rendang, and finally, after several months, I could put a name to what had become one of my favorite foods.

I first made this about a year ago and haven't found a restaurant version I like as well since then (again, making no claims to authenticity, just what my palate likes...). Below is (roughly) the version I made over the weekend, which I personally think is pretty awesome... if I do say so myself... This was my first-ever attempt at making Roti Canai (I’d just used store-bought like a loser previously) and I was quite pleased with how they turned out (see photo)…

Beef Rendang
(Serves 6-8, based largely on the recipe at

   10 shallots, peeled and chopped
   8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
   4" piece fresh or frozen and thawed galangal, peeled and chopped
   5" piece ginger, peeled and chopped
   1-2" piece fresh or frozen and thawed turmeric, peeled and chopped
   6 shelled candlenuts, chopped*
   1 nutmeg seed, chopped**
   Salt (~1tsp?)
   2 kg boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1⁄2" pieces
   4 stalks lemongrass
   5 cups unsweetened coconut milk
   15-20 kaffir lime leaves
   10 fresh curry leaves

1) Working in batches, combine shallots, garlic, galangal, ginger, turmeric candlenuts, nutmeg, and salt (to taste) in a mortar and pestle, pounding into a smooth paste. Combine the meat and spice paste in a large bowl and toss to coat the meat well in the marinade. Leave to marinate for at least one hour or overnight. (I tend to go with overnight.)

2) Bruise the lemongrass stalks with the dull side of a large knife. Cut into ~2” segments and set aside. Bruise the lime leaves and curry leaves as well to release more of the flavor.

3) Preheat an oven to 350°F. Bring the coconut milk to a simmer in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to a thick paste. Continue to cook on the stovetop over medium heat for 15-20 minutes to further reduce the sauce.

4) Remove lime leaves, curry leaves, and lemongrass before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with Roti Canai (recipe below).

*I use dried candlenuts for this, but I’ve heard a rumor that you can substitute macadamia nuts.

**If you wimp out and make the spice paste in a food processor instead of a mortar and pestle, make sure to finely grate the nutmeg rather than just chopping it. Otherwise, you can end up with big chunks of nutmeg in your final dish…

Roti Canai
(Makes 10)

   1 1/4 cups water
   1 tsp kosher salt
   2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
   3 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
   2 tablespoons melted ghee (plus extra for coating and frying)

1) Combine the water, salt, and condensed milk, then slowly add to the flour, kneading to combine. Add the ghee and knead this in, adding extra flour as needed, until you have a soft not-too-sticky dough. Leave the dough covered with a damp cloth for ~30 minutes.

2) Divide dough into 10 portions, rolling each portion into a ball and lightly coating with ghee to avoid sticking. Leave the dough to rest for at least 2 hours (or refrigerate overnight after 2 hours at room temperature, then bring to room temperature before proceeding)

3) Lightly coat your hands with ghee, and flatten a ball of dough between your palms. Continue stretching and pulling the dough until it is quite thin. (This can be facilitated by spreading it out over the butter-coated bottom of a large wok.) Sprinkle the dough with ~1tsp of ghee and fold four edges into the middle, attempting to achieve a square shape. Lightly sprinkle with flour and roll out slightly.

4) Pre-heat a skillet over medium-high heat and grease it well with ghee. When hot, add the roti and cook for 2-3 minutes per side (until golden), applying additional ghee when you flip it if needed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I definitely am going to make this! Looking forward to more recipes and "culinary adventures"!