*edited version* since WordPress didn’t re-save my rescheduled publish time, this post got published early so I hadn’t finished.
Wow, Yasmina does a blog post on a non-chocolate topic ; )
As some of you may know, I spent part of my childhood in Jakarta, Indonesia. I was in elementary school then, and some of my fondest childhood memories are of the afternoons my mother would collect me from school and take me on errands with her. Afterwards she’d reward me with a visit to the bookstore (ya, I was a voracious reader) and a visit to a Padang restaurant to eat rendang daging, the caramelised spicy beef curry from Indonesia’s West Sumatra region.
I loved the stuff, I’d eat the entire plate of rendang, and sayur daun singkong (cassava leaves stewed in coconut milk), and asking for extra rice. My mother was always amazed at how much rendang and sayur daun singkong I could eat, skinny as I was. She tells me that through watching me eat rendang, she realised that her kid must be a masochist, because I’d sit there sweating and almost crying from the chillies, yet I’d ask for more.
If you’ve never been to a Padang* restaurant, put it on your list! They’re ubiquitous in Indonesia, just look out for a glass-fronted eatery like the one in the picture below, behind the glass lies stacks of plates filled with various dishes. This is fast-food the Indonesian way: it’s just seconds after sitting down at your table that they bring you plates of every dish they have, usually between 10-15 Minangkabau/Padang speciality dishes. You eat what you like and can ask for seconds, and they charge you for what you eat, and don’t charge you for the untouched food.
Rendang (and Padang food) is eaten everywhere across Indonesia these days. In the last few years, there’s been a trend/revival in modern Indonesian cuisine, amidst the various Western fare on offer. I just found out about Chef Marco Lim’s Padang-Peranakan restaurant and can’t wait to try it when I’m next in Jakarta! Mmmm, Peranakan food is another one I can eat any time, it’s comfort food really!
Rendang: its cultural significance and story
Taken from the Wikipedia page:
The meat (dagiang) symbolises the Niniak Mamak, the traditional clan leaders such as the datuk, the nobles, royalty and revered elders.
The coconut milk (karambia) symbolises the Cadiak Pandai, intellectuals, teachers, poets and writers.
The chilli (lado) symbolises the Alim Ulama, clerics, ulama and religious leaders. The hotness of the chilli symbolises Sharia.
The spice mixture (pemasak) symbolises the rest of Minangkabau society.
The above photo shows Nasi Padang, which is steamed white rice with side dishes (up to 3-4 usually) and condiments.
Making my own beef rendang
These days though, I make my own rendang daging with a rendang paste I make from scratch. I blitz all the herbs and spices in my blender, because for the quantities I make, doing it in a mortar and pestle just isn’t practical. I marinate the beef overnight in the rendang paste, and I start to cook late morning the next day if I want to eat the rendang daging at dinner time.
Since rendang daging is so time-consuming to make, I always make a huge batch of it, often using between 1-2 kilos of beef. Save your fat-marbled steak cuts for the grill, however. For rendang daging, the beef cuts my mother taught me to use are the top or bottom rounds and beef chuck. They’re tough and lean with plenty of connective tissue, and when stewed over a long period of time, the collagen breaks down and renders the meat tender and flavourful. It sounds kind of counter-intuitive, to use tough and lean meats but it works!
We eat it over a period of several days, the coconut milk thickening and the flavours intensifying. On the second or third days, I can only manage to eat a small piece of beef, often spread over steamed white rice, and I love to soak up the remaining spices from the pot with the hot rice.
No recipe this time around, unfortunately. I have a really good recipe for rendang daging that my friends have been loving but I’m perfecting it for my supper club. If you’re in Berlin, stay tuned! I will bring you the rendang daging Padang of my childhood soon : )
* The Minangkabau people are an ethnic group indigenous to the Minangkabau highlands in West Sumatra. Padang is another word for Minangkabau; Padang is actually the capital city of the province, but in modern Indonesian language, Padang is widely used and refers to the Minangkabau people, food and province. More on Minangkabau cuisine on Wikipedia.