Friday, 1 August 2008
Although a thick, spicy rendang has been one of my favourite dishes for much of my life, I have never before cooked it from scratch. For years I have used a packet sauce, because I have long been concerned that I would fail to get the consistency right. Rendang is a dish popular in Malaysia and Singapore, and although I think it originated in Indonesia it will always be a dish that always makes me think of Malaysia.
I was feeling quite a lot of trepidation going into this, worried that there was some essential animal-based element that was going to cause a failure on my part. My memories of rendang are so tied up with meat things, and I was concerned by the texture first, and the flavour second, and I was pretty sure that the end result would be "a thing, not rendang."
I describe it as ‘spicy,’ but in this instance I don’t mean hot, I mean thick with spices. Four tablespoons of chilli flakes sounds like a lot, but given the coconut milk it renders down to add delicious chilli flavour with very little bite.
Cooking it with potato is a bit odd; I suspect that seitan would work better, as it would allow the juices to soak in more effectively (and more in the way of beef), but it was still really tasty, and evoked the memories of that first bite, the odd combination of rich coconut and red chilli and my hands, covered in brown sauce. And it still tasted like rendang, and I'm so pleased.
This dish will take some time, like a curry. I have this terrible habit of using a wok for the rendang, but it would probably work better in a heavy-bottomed pot.
five potatoes (sliced into short fingers)
two tablespoons of lemon juice
half cup of stock
400ml(ish) coconut milk
three or four lime kaffir leaves
2 cloves garlic
four tablespoons dried chilli flakes
half tablespoon ground cumin
tablespoon coriander seeds
shake of ground cloves
short length of lemon grass
Pound together the paste ingredients. Dry fry until fragrant, add the coconut milk, simmer for ten minutes. Add the potatoes, continue simmering with the lid on for thirty minutes. Mix the stock, lemon juice and extra chilli flakes if required, and add, along with the lime kaffir. Continue to simmer with the lid off until the liquid has reduced and the potatoes are tender.
Serve with roti or rice, but this would work best with lontong.