Malaysia is a fabulous cultural melting pot and a paradise for foodies.
100g finely grated fresh coconut
4 fat lemon grass stalks, bruised
50g piece tamarind pulp
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 x 5cm cinnamon stick pieces
3 star anise
12 green cardamom pods, lightly bruised
1.5kg blade or chuck steak, cut into 5cm chunks
800ml coconut milk
1 tbsp palm sugar
8 kaffir lime leaves
1 ½ tsp salt
10 dried red chillies
225g onions or shallots, roughly chopped
8 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped
6cm piece peeled fresh galangal, roughly chopped
6cm piece peeled fresh ginger, roughly chopped
4 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves discarded and core roughly chopped
For spice paste, put dried chillies in a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain well, put into a food processor with remaining paste ingredients and process until smooth.
Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add grated coconut and stir for a few minutes until golden. Remove from pan and cool, then coarsely process in a food processor.
Cut off and discard the top half of each lemongrass stalk. Lightly bruise the remainder with a rolling pin.
Put tamarind pulp into a small bowl and add 125 millilitres of hot water. Work pulp with your fingers until it has broken down and the seeds have been released. Strain through a sieve into another bowl and set aside.
Heat oil in a large, heavy-based pan or flameproof casserole dish over a medium heat. Add cinnamon, star anise, cloves and cardamom and fry gently for two minutes.
Add spice paste and fry for two to three minutes more until mixture smells fragrant.
Add beef, coconut milk, sugar, kaffir lime leaves, toasted coconut, bruised lemon grass stalks, tamarind water and salt. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and leave to simmer uncovered for 2½ to three hours, stirring occasionally, then stir more gently and frequently towards the end of cooking, to prevent it sticking on the base of the pan.
Eventually, the sauce reduces so much it clings to the meat. Adjust sugar and salt to taste and serve with steamed jasmine rice.