Lamb Rendang
Lamb Rendang
Throughout history human beings have figured out ways to prepare and preserve food based on the climate and their living conditions. In the 16th century, long before refrigeration, the Minangkabau people of Indonesia created rendang as a way to keep a large amount of meat for a longer period in such a warm tropical climate. Rendang has a lot less liquid than other types of curry from Thailand and India, and although it includes a number of curry spices it’s not actually considered a curry in Indonesia.

The slow-cooked meat dish with its complex blend of herbs and spices has become one of the most popular foods in the Muslim parts of Southeast Asia, not only in Indonesia, but also Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and the Southern Philippines. In 2015, CNNGo readers ranked it number one in the website’s “World’s 50 Best Foods” poll. It also happens to be one of my favorite dishes to make whenever we have guests coming over for dinner. As the weather is finally getting warmer I thought I’d share one last stewed dish for the season and I don’t think this one-pot meal will disappoint! Here’s my own version of a Malaysian rendang with lamb.


1 lb. lamb
1 onion
34 cup water
2 tomatoes
2 pieces of lemongrass
3 cloves
2 bay leaves
12 tsp. coriander seeds
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
14 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 carrot
1 potato
For the Rendang Paste:
3 cloves of garlic
2 shallots
5 slices ginger
2 hot peppers
12 lime
2 lemongrass pieces
14 cup cilantro
12 cup coconut milk
12 tsp. salt
12 tsp. sugar
12 tsp. curry powder
12 tsp. turmeric
12 tsp. garam masala
14 tsp. ground cumin
12 tsp.cayenne pepper
34 cup water


Start by caramelizing the onion for about 10 to 15 minutes (photo 1). Traditionally, a rendang does not require caramelized onion, but I believe that good curry always starts with some caramelized onion to give it a naturally sweetened flavor.

While you are waiting for the onions to be caramelized, you can make the rendang paste. You may be intimidated by all the ingredients, but do not worry, all you need to do is combine all the ingredients and blend into a paste with a blender or a food processor. Set aside.

Note: Even though the rendang base has coconut milk in it, it’s really not overpowering like typical coconut curry commonly served here in American Thai restaurants. Because of the long cooking process, the coconut milk will eventually evaporate but it leaves behind a creamy texture and some natural sweetness. And I cannot stress enough, go for the full-fat canned coconut milk or else you will not be able to get the same result (photo 2).

Cut lamb into bite-size chunks and season with a little salt and pepper. You may subsitute lamb with beef if you wish. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven on high heat, sear the lamb in batches with 1 Tbsp. oil until they are nice and brown. This should only take 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Remove from pot and set aside (photos 3 & 4).

In the same pot, heat up 2 Tbsp. oil and stir in the bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods (photo 5). Cook on high heat for 30 seconds. This is also a method I stole from Indian curry. You may skip this step if you don’t have these ingredients, but if you do and you are feeling adventurous, I highly recommend doing so, as it gives the rendang a little extra flavor boost.

Quickly stir in the rendang paste. Cook the paste for 30 seconds to one minute until it’s a little thick and you can smell the aromatics (photo 6).

Dice up the tomatoes and add in the pot along with the caramelized onions and the seared meat. Then add in the water, two lemongrass blades and the unsweetened, shredded coconut. The shredded coconut is what gives rendang its signature texture. Once it comes to a boil, turn it down to the lowest heat and let it slowly cook for at least three hours (photo 7).

People often ask me how to prepare lemongrass. You really only want to use the bottom of the stem as the leaves don’t have much flavor at all. Then smash the bottom of the stem with the back of your knife so the flavors can be released while it’s cooking in the stew (photo 8).

In the last thirty minutes of cooking, cut up the potato and carrot into bite-size chunks, toss them into the rendang and continue to cook until they are tender. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste and it’s ready to serve.

Rendang is commonly served with glutenous rice, but I like serving mine Malaysian-style with coconut rice. To make the coconut rice, all you need to do is cook jasmine rice the same way you usually do, but substitute half of the water with coconut milk, season with a little salt and chicken stock along with 1 lemongrass and 2 pandan leaves, which you can find at the Asian market.