Singapore Main Dish – Beef Rendang

Singapore - Beef Rendang 001

Beef Rendang is a contribution of our Malay community to the rich multicultural food heritage of Singapore. Beef Rendang is a coconut based dry curry served at weddings and at homes during Hari Raya Adilfitri, usually with Nasi Kunyit (a yellow glutinous rice cooked with coconut milk). Yellow signifies wealth and royalty. At a Malay wedding, during the Bersanding ceremony, the bride and groom are royalty for that day.

Photo above shows a serving platter of beef gently simmered in a blend of aromatic spices and herbs with a side dish of sambal belimbing. Sambal belimbing is a sweet and tart relish. It is a suitable side dish for Beef Rendang. The tart fresh crunch of the Belimbing cuts through the richness of the coconut in the Beef Rendang and the Nasi Kunyit.

If your household loves spicy food, make double or triple the rempah required since rempah freezes well. Then, you will be a few steps ahead for the next beef rendang cooking session.

Some comments about the Ingredients.

GalangalGalangal’s fragrance is delicate but distinct and is more evidently present when the root is young. It is young when it is slightly pinkish in colour.  You can distinguish old and young galangal by their colour. Old pieces are no longer pink and they are very fibrous and lack the fragrance. You will have a difficult time peeling and slicing through the root and the delicate fragrance is hardly present. Dry galangal powder is not a good enough substitute in my opinion.

Click here for a post on how to prepare a bottle of home-made ground galangal paste.

From the above photo, you will be able to identify the different types of gingers that are available in the local wet markets or in the Asian groceries in the US and Australia.


STEP 1. Toasting the freshly grated coconut.  This step is making the kerisisk which can be purchased in the market. Since it doesn’t take much time to toast this especially if you have dessicated coconut sitting in your baking cupboard, it is much fresher to toast this yourself. Heat an un-greased saucepan over medium heat and stir fry the freshly grated coconut or dessicated coconut till it turns golden brown. Remove from the heat of the pan to cool if yours looks too brown. Once cooled, grind in the blender to finer ground.

STEP 2. Making the tamarind liquid. Mix the water and the tamarind paste together. Rub paste and strain to separate seeds and pulp from liquid.

Grinding the Rempah paste

STEP 3. If you use a small chopper blender like me, separate the chunky ingredients into 2 to 3 lots to grind into a fine paste. If necessary, to help lubricate the blades you might want to add a little bit of oil or add 1 Tbsp of Kara coconut milk.

STEP 4. Once you have ground all, mix the dry spices with the fine paste.

Cooking the Beef Rendamg

STEP 5.  Place beef, rempah, ground toasted coconut, Kara coconut cream, tamarind liquid in a large thick bottomed pot. Cover, bring to boil then simmer for about 50 mins to 1 hour or so. Once beef is tender, allow liquid to evaporate. You will notice that a film of red oil has separated from the meat and spice paste.

STEP 6. Add herbs and cook for a further 5 mins or so. Serve as suggested or with white rice and a vegetable dish. If you are having guests over, Singapore Chicken curry and Roti Prata, a large green Salad are great accompanying dishes. Click here for Singapore Chicken curry recipe.

RECIPE – Li’s adaptation of a recipe from “Homestyle Malay Cooking” published by Periplus

SERVES 6 persons


  • 500 gm thickly sliced Beef Shank
  • 100 gm of freshly grated white coconut (or 70 gm of dessicated coconut). Fry in an un-greased saucepan over medium heat till toasted.

Rempah (grind in blender till fine paste)

  • 15 shallots, peeled and cut into smaller pieces (or 3 to 4 medium purple onions)
  • 50 gm peeled and sliced fresh ginger root
  • 70 gm peeled and sliced galangal
  • 3 stems of lemon grass, slice the white part but keep the green part
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 Tbsp chillli powder
  • Optional – 1 Tbsp of cooking oil
  • 200 ml pcket of Kara cocnut cream

Tamarind liquid

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 rounded Tbsp of tamarind paste

Herbs (added at the end, after beef is tender)

  • 2 small turmeric leaves
  • 2 Kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Serving Suggestions

Beef Rendang is most certainly served with hot steaming rice. Serving it as a sandwich filling with cold slices of lettuce, cucumber and tomato will be a quick meal and well accepted too!

Depending on the number of people and their dietary preference at mealtime, this dish may be accompanied with any one or more of the soups and dishes listed below.

Chinese Soups

1. Jin Hua Ham and Winter Melon Soup. Click here.

2. Lotus Root, Peanut and Pork Ribs. Click here

3. Radishes and Dried Squid. Click here.

4. Pork Stomach with Peppercorn. Click here

5. Tang Ho with Fishballs. Click here

Meat Dishes

1. Singapore Chicken Curry (spicy). Click here.

2. Dry Assam Seafood. Click here


3. Kai Lan and Sweet Potato Lemak (spicy). Click here.

4. Pork, Spinach and Egg Stir Fry. Click here.

6. Shanghai Cabbage with Oyster Sauce and Garlic. Click here.

7. Broccoli and Meat/Tofu Stir Fry. Click here

Now how about dessert? A quick one would be a plate of freshly cut seasonal fruit. Make that more interesting with the addition of ice cream if you are serving mangoes or any types of berries. Here are some other dessert ideas.

1. Almond Jelly with Longans (click here)

2. Coconut Jelly with Can Lychees (click here)

3. Sago Pudding. Click here.

4. Orange Agar Agar. Click here

5. Ginger Poached Pears. Click here


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