Rendang is a distinct dry curry with Indonesian and Malaysian roots. Traditionally it is made with beef that has been cooked low and slow in a melange of coconut, lemongrass and alliums. Powered by umami-packed mushrooms, this dish is faithful to traditional recipes and lacks nothing in the flavour department. Here, a robust paste is cooked down until it caramelises and clings to the mushrooms. The resulting curry-like stew is spicy, sweet, tangy and packs a punch.
60ml (¼ cup) vegetable or neutral oil
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
2 cardamom pods, smashed
1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 5cm pieces and lightly smashed
600g mixed mushrooms* (such as king oyster, oyster, shimeji, shiitake or Swiss browns), sliced or torn
250ml (1 cup) coconut cream
1 tbsp tamarind puree
45g (½ cup) desiccated coconut
5 makrut lime leaves**, finely sliced
1 tbsp brown sugar, plus more to taste
Rendang spice paste
5 large (about 270g) French shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
5cm-piece (about 25g) ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, white parts only, roughly chopped
10 dried chillies, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes and seeds removed
5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
steamed white rice, coriander leaves
1. To make the spice paste, blend all ingredients to a thick paste in a blender or food processor. Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle to pound together.
2. Add the oil and spice paste to a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Reduce to medium-low, add the spices and lemongrass and stir for 2-3 minutes until the paste starts to caramelise. Add the mushrooms and stir for 1-2 minutes to combine. Add the coconut cream, tamarind and 250ml water. Stir, cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, allowing the mushrooms to cook down.
3. Meanwhile, toast the desiccated coconut in a small frypan on medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes until golden.
4. Add the toasted coconut, lime leaf, sugar and 2 big pinches of salt to the pot. Stir, cover and cook on low for 15-20 minutes until the mushrooms are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with more salt and sugar to taste; it should be spicy, sweet and rich. Serve with rice and coriander.
Tip: Classic rendang includes kerisik, a fried coconut paste. I cheated by using toasted desiccated coconut, but use kerisik if you have it.
*I used a combination of king oyster, oyster and shiitake mushrooms, but you could substitute with Swiss browns, shimeji, button, portobello or enoki varieties.
**Makrut are also called kaffir lime leaves.