Beef Rendang + cheat lemang

Beef Rendang + cheat lemang

Beef rendang is one of the most well known of Malaysian dishes. It is as synonymous to Malaysian cuisine as nasi lemak.

We, the Malaysian have adopted and embraced this dish from our neighbour Indonesia and made it our own.

Living in the UK we will never make as nice a beef rendang or nasi lemak as we could in Malaysia. This is because we cannot get nice fresh coconut milk. Some may say that the tin coconut milk is just as good but in my opinion, I beg to differ. However as a Malaysian living in the UK I do not really have a lot of choice. I have a coconut shredder chair (yes the old school one) please refer to pic) but I still cannot buy nice enough coconut to give me any worthwhile coconut milk.

To cook beef rendang it not difficult. The hardest job is frying the kerisik kelapa (shredded coconut strands) Please do not buy the ready fried ones. They taste of stale coconut oil – yikes. Buy the frozen coconut strands and fry it yourself on a dry non stick clean pan/wok.

I would have used more galangal but I did not have more. I really love the taste of galangal. You can find it normally at any Chinese supermarket. Galangal is not hard to find.

TIP – In all my curries and cooking I prefer to make my own paste and I always prefers to blitz some of the lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves etc with my paste. This not only gives any dishes more uuumph but thicken the sauce without the need of buah keras (candlenuts)

As for my DIY lemang there is a long story of trial and errors. When I first tried to make it in UK I made tons of mistakes and this is the closest I can get to the real thing now.

Basically it is just mix the drained soaked glutinous rice to a tin of coconut milk, mix in the salt, the pandan leaves, stir and steam for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and remove the pandan leaves.

Then scope some onto your ready banana leaves and more pandan leaves, wrapped and steam again for another 15 minutes. This will cause the banana leaf taste to seep in.

Remove and use a blow torch to torch the banana leaves (you can use gas stove or BBQ) for this to achieve the smoky taste. This give me the closest taste I can get to the real lemang minus the bamboo. When you served your lemang you will see light green on the sides. That’s the taste and look you want.

Again as I have stressed before use my recipe as a guide and create your own to your own taste.

I still recall most embarrassingly the first time I tried to make lemang I actually boiled the glutinous rice then roll them into tube using cling film and of course it tasted nothing like lemang!

TIP – Do not add your gula Malacca till the last hour to limit the chance of sticking.

TIP – Taste and season with salt if not salty enough or add more sugar if too spicy during the last 30 minutes.

TIP – Add some fresh cili padi (birdeye chilli) if not spicy enough

TIP – Cook rendang the day before and let it steep overnight. Then the next day you only need to steam and make the lemang.

Beef Rendang +cheat lemang


Ingredients For Spice Paste

  • One bowl Dried chilli (soaked and boiled)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp Chili powder (more if you want more spicy)
  • One bowl Fresh red chilies (I sometimes used niaga)
  • 2 bowl Shallots
  • 4 thumb sized Galangal (blue ginger)
  • 3 thumb sized Ginger
  • 6 stalk Lemon grass (white parts) cut finely
  • 1 bulb Garlic
  • 3 – 4 tbsp Ground Coriander (I love the taste of coriander)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp Cumin

Preparing the beef

  • 6 kg Beef brisket/short ribs/topside/skirt (optional)
  • 2 tbsp Flour for dusting ( you can omit this stage)
  • oil

Ingredient to be stewed together with the beef

  • 2/3 cinnamon stick
  • 6 – 8 lemon grass (not the white parts)
  • 6 – 8 Cardamom pods
  • 6 – 8 Star Anise
  • 6 – 8 Cloves
  • 6 – 8 Kaffir lime leaves
  • 4 tins 400ml Coconut milk I rinse with a touch of water only
  • 1 400ml thick asam jawa (tamarind) juice (add more if needed)
  • 4 – 6 tbsp Gula Malacca or more to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 bowl kerisik (toasted coconut strands)


  • 500 g Glutinous Rice
  • 1 tin 400ml Coconut milk
  • 1 heap tsp Salt
  • Banana leaf
  • Pandan leaf


Note – you can add in birdeye chilli if not spicy enough, slice kaffir lime leaves thinly and just mix before serving. I love colours. 
Note – If you are married to an Englishman, they have a love for sauce. My rendang is never too dry as he like to mop up the sauce with roti. It is entirely up to you. 

In place of shallots I used 4 large red onions as I am out of shallots. The juice from the onions will blend your paste nicely. Do NOT add water. I also added some kaffir leaves to my paste.

To prepare the beef – Please note it is to DUST the beef not COAT the beef. This is just so the beef maintain the nice beefy taste.

To start stewing your beef rendang

Frying the coconut strands (kerisik)

Lemang without bamboo

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