Malaysia: Beef Rendang
This was a really fun meal to make (and to eat, more on that later). I used multiple ingredients that I’ve never cooked with before, and it was a bit of a hunt to find everything. Here are some of the cool new ingredients that I used.
Here’s the recipe I used, I had to substitute lime zest because I could not find turmeric leaves or kaffir lime leaves.
The first store I went to I bought a coconut. The third store I went to also had young coconuts, and I wasn’t sure which one the recipe called for so I ended up buying both a young and an old coconut.
After looking at the recipe I realized I should use the old coconut because it has more meat (whereas the young coconut has little meat but lots of juice). I’ve never opened a coconut before, and the one time I saw it done a machete was used. I do not own a machete. So I found this aptly named website describing how to open a coconut and started in.
EXCEPT for the fact that the coconut meat tasted fermented 😦 All that work and I just felt like it would not be a good flavor to add to the dish. So, since I had another coconut, I proceeded to open that one. I scraped out the small bit of meat in the young coconut and used that, though it was not enough to fulfill what the recipe called for. Should have gone with my first instinct to purchase shaved coconut! Alas, it was an adventure at least.
Here’s the spice paste:
My dear friends Cody and Lalita and their adorable daughter Sienna came over for dinner. Cody lived in Malaysia for a year and Lalita visited there. So it was really neat to have them here for the meal. I got a great Malaysian history lesson and stories about living in Malaysia. Lalita brought a special dish, gado gado, which is popular in both Indonesia and Malaysia (these cuisines overlap quite a bit). The gado gado was really tasty, it’s a steamed vegetable salad with a nutty dressing:
Cody and Lalita also brought krupuk, which is a prawn based crunchy cracker that comes in a small disc and once boiled in oil puffs up into a delicious cracker. It went perfectly with our meal and was a good distraction for Sienna. Here’s our meal:
Now, about the experience of eating the meal. Some context. The day was an extremely hot day in Philly – heat warnings, humid, hot, hot, hot. Right when we started eating dinner the electricity went out and I quickly realized it wasn’t just my apartment (my apt. building is old an I often blow a fuse, which is easily remedied). Instead, it was a neighborhood outage so there was nothing we could do except light candles, as it was getting dark outside. My third floor apartment gets stifling hot without a/c’s or eat least fans. And to top it off, the meal was spicy. Cody and Lalita had such good attitudes about dining by candlelight in the heat, saying it made it more authentic, which made my hostess self feel better. Sienna handled it quite well too. When we finished we were going to go for a walk since at this point it was cooler outside than in my apartment, but just as we were about to leave a huge thunderstorm rolled in with torrential downpours, thunder, lightning and hail! So, we lit some more candles, chuckled, got comfortable on the couches and chatted while eating some ice cream to cool off. We had a great time chatting – I’m so grateful for friendship. It ended up being a really nice, and memorable, evening.
Cody and Sienna:
I really liked the flavor of the dish, I thought it was delicious. I didn’t use all the chili paste the recipe called for because I didn’t want to make it too spicy, but I would add more next time, using what the recipe calls for. Also, the consistency was a little thin given that I didn’t put much actual coconut in, so next time I would probably just buy pre-shedded coconut. I really liked the gado gado and krupuk with it – I’ll have to figure out how to make those too – or just always invite Cody and Lalita over for Malaysian food since Lalita has connections :). Yay for Malaysian food!