Malaysia’s Best Beef Rendang

by Dr. Shahrim Karim, Universiti Putra Malaysia //

Rendang is Malaysia’s most popular dish in the country.

It is typically a thick or dry stew made mainly from beef, lamb and chicken, cooked with selected spices including chilli paste, coconut milk, onions, lemon grass and galangal. It also can be made from shrimp, fish, cockles and tapioca shoots. There are many varieties of rendang from various part of Malaysia, that have different taste, colour and texture. Of course rendang is always hot and spicy.

Dr Shahrim Karim is one of the famous chefs in Southeast Asia and a Malaysian heritage food authority & specialist. He has been guest in numerous TV programs such as Masterchef Malaysia and has published various cookbooks as well as more than 70 scientific papers on the importance of food as a cultural heritage. Currently, he is an Associate Professor at the Universiti Putra in Selangor. He can be contacted at or Instagram @shahrimkarim

It originated in Indonesia and was brought to the Malay Peninsular during the immigration of people from Indonesia 500 to 600 years ago. Today, Malaysian rendang has become one of our national dishes and the flavor is uniquely Malaysia. Rendang has to be cooked for several hours, so that all of the flavours will be immersed into the meat.

The nutty and caramelized flavor partly contributed by the sugar content in the onions and other ingredients made rendang preparation a complex one. Cooking rendang itself is an art, from mixing the various spices to determining the final colour of rendang needs a lot of experience. In cooking, one could have the same ingredients, but the final taste of the rendang could be totally different. We believe in a saying “air tangan”, which literally means water of the hands, everyone cooking has a unique taste, although the recipe is the same.

Certain types of rendang is served during major festivals, therefore it is not a daily food that will be on the table. Instead, it is more of a celebration food found in wedding receptions, festivals, and special occasions. Chicken rendang could be served at a typical restaurant. Beef rendang, on the other hand, is not easy to be found because it takes several hours to cook them. Yet rendang is a favourite food among Malaysians. Having the right thickness of the sauce, and when to stop the cooking process is crucial in order to have a flavorful rendang.

Beef rendang can be kept for months in a frozen form and can be reheated and served. In these recipes, I am preparing the rendang sauce and meat separately. First, the meat has to be marinated, and later seared and roasted. The sauce is prepared separately and served with the beef. Traditionally, the meat is cooked together with the gravy for several hours until it gets very thick and dry and the meat becomes very tender. Chicken rendang takes less time.

I hope you enjoy the recipe. Enjoy your meal or, as we say: Selamat menjamu selera!

Beef Marinate

  • 1 kg Beef Tenderloin
  • 6 nos Red Onions
  • 3 cloves Garlic3 stalks
  • Lemon Grass
  • 3 inch Ginger
  • 2 inch Galangal
  • ½ cup Vegetables Oil


  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and blend until it becomes a smooth paste
  • Rub the spice paste onto the beef tenderloin, and let marinade for 2 hours or if possible leave it overnight
  • To sear, heat the oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium to high heat until almost smoking. Cook the meat quickly, turning with tongs, until nicely brown on all sides and transfer to oven, 200°C
  • Roast until done to your liking
  • Allow tenderloin to rest 5 to 10 minutes before cutting the meat
  • Cut the meat into required size and serve with the rendang sauce

Rendang Sauce /Gravy (10 -15 portion)

  • 6 tbsp Red Chilly paste
  • 10 nos Bombay Onions /Red onions – grounded
  • 8 cloves Garlic –grounded
  • 2 inch Ginger -grounded
  • 1 inch Tumeric –grounded ( or ½ tbsp. turmeric powder)
  • 4 stalks Lemon Grass – grounded
  • 2.5 inch Galangal – grounded
  • 4-5 pieces Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • Mix spices 5 pcs Cardamon, 4-5 Cloves, 1 stick Cinnamon and 3 Star Anise
  • 4 cups Coconut Milk
  • 2 tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1tbsp Cumin powder
  • ½ tbsp. Black Pepper (ground)
  • 2tbsp Coriander ( ground)
  • 1 tbsp Fennel Seed ( ground)
  • ½ cup Pounded Roasted Grated coconut
  • Salt to taste


  • Combine all ingredients for the spice paste in a food processor and blend until smooth
  • In a wok, add some oil and the mix spices, stir until it is aromatic and add the spice paste, and other powdered spices, stir well
  • Add in the coconut milk, bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce is cooked and thickened ( the colour should be dark brown)
  • Seasoned to taste and finally add in the roasted coconut paste
  • If it is too thick, add some coconut milk or liquid to thin it

Herbal Rice ( 8 – 10 portion)

  • 500 gm White Rice
  • 3 tbsp Oil
  • 30 gm Dried shrimps or small tiny dried baby shrimps – pan roasted
  • 50 gm Fried shallots
  • Salt to Taste
  • 1 stalk Lemon grass – slice thinly
  • 1 nos Torch Ginger – slice thinly
  • 5 pcs Betel leaves – slice thinly
  • 5 pcs kaffir lime leaves – slice thinly
  • 2 sprins mint leaf – slice thinly
  • 2 sprins basil leaves
  • 2 sprins laksa leaves or polygonum leaves


  • In a wok over medium heat, add some oil and stir in lemon grass and kaffir lime and sautéed for 20 to 30 seconds, and add in the rice
  • Add in other herbs, fried onions, roasted shrimps and mixed well
  • Season to taste and serve with the beef tenderloin

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