Rendang

Minangkabau Legacy
Jungle-Proof Meats

“CNN has named Rendang, a traditional dish from Padang, West Sumatra on the World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods, beating out French croissants and American donuts.” — Jakarta Post

The Minang ethnic group of Sumatra are known for their matrilineal society, the world’s biggest women-run social structure anywhere.

They are also famous for their elaborate folkways and evolved cultural patterns, including their food. One of their dishes may be the tastiest in the world, as CNN found.

The dish, called Rendang, is now popular through a wider area of Malaysia and Indonesia.

Rendang is a cooking method in which the main food is braised in coconut milk, then cooked in a rich spice mixture and finally, when the sauce has cooked down until it is basically dry, is then braised one more time.

The result is an intensely flavored dish which goes well with plain steamed rice.

Rendang is most commonly made with beef, and for many people Beef Rendang is the main or only form in which the dish comes.

But Rendang is also commonly made with lamb and goat.  But the main ingredient can also be —

  • water buffalo
  • mutton
  • liver
  • chicken
  • duck
  • fish
  • eggs, and even
  • vegetables

Some innovative Western chefs have even used the Rendang method to make a dish with wild boar, as we’ll see.

Culinary experts sometimes describe Rendang as “caramelized West Sumatran curry.” Rendang is West Sumatran in origin, and the meat or other main ingredient may end up caramelized in a way. But Rendang is not curry in the usual sense.

Besides Coconut Milk and the meat or other ingredient, a mixture of ground spices in paste form is used to prepare Rendang.  The spices typically include:

  • ginger
  • galgangal
  • turmeric leaves
  • lemongrass
  • garlic
  • shallot and other spices

The final product has a texture like that of a dry curry, but the flavorings are not the same as a curry.

One distinctive thing about Rendang is that the garlic, ginger, shallots, and especially galangal are known to have strong anti microbial, germicidal qualities.  In the traditional cooking style, Rendang is prepared in a slow cooking method.

Jungle-Proofing: As a result of the slow cooking and the spices used, the final product becomes quite stable and is safe to eat without refrigeration for up to four weeks.

The early Minang were seafaring people and because Rendang was a stable food, they carried it with them on their boats as they explored the oceans off Southeast Asia.

Besides modern Malaysia and Indonesia, Renang is popular in a wider area, which roughly corresponds to the areas the early Minangkabau traders visited from around the 16th century onward.

Rendang Zone: A wide area of Southeast Asia is now home to Rendang, a sort of minor culture sphere.  The Rendang Zone is wider than the proposed Maphilindo confederation and includes:

  • Malaysia
  • Indonesia
  • Singapore
  • Brunei plus parts of
  • Thailand and
  • Philippines

No. 1 Most Delicious: Rendang is also popular around the world among people who have eaten it at Indonesian and Malaysian restaurants in Europe, North America and Australia.  In fact, a survey by CNN found that Rendang was the No. 1 favorite dish out of their list of the world’s most delicious foods.

The word Rendang may come from a Malayan word meaning “shady” and apparently refers to the dark brown color of the finished dish.

Recipes: You can make Rendang in your own kitchen.  Siri Owen is a good source and we list some others.

Wild Boar Rendang: A Chicago restaurant has even used the Rendang method to make a Rendang type dish using Wild Boar Sausage as the main ingredient and the dish is topped with onion tempura flavored with Togarashi.  So this dish has departed quite far from its Sumatran origins.

For Further Information:00

Rendang,” article, Wikipedia —   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rendang
Minangkebau,” article, Wikipedia  —   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minangkabau
Siri Owen,
writings on Indonesian http://www.amazon.com/Indonesian-Regional-Cooking-Sri-Owen/dp/0312118325cooking  —
Wild Boar Rendang with Togarashi
—  http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=Rendang&find_loc=Chicago%2C+IL

Map of Port Area, Djakarta, 1960s

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