Beef rendang is a rich curry of Indonesian origin, primarily flavoured using coconut milk, kerisik (browned coconut) and lemongrass. Usually made using cubed stewing beef, this recipe for Ox Cheek Rendang runs with the dish’s intensely flavourful credentials, making use of what is arguably the finest cut of meat for slow-cooking.
Served on special occasions in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore beef (or ox cheek) rendang is a dish that takes time, patience and understanding. The more of each of these you give your curry, the better it’ll taste.
In my mind, key to an outrageously successful rendang is the addition of kerisik, or light browned coconut. Traditionally speaking kerisik would always be made with freshly grated coconut, but since you’re drying it out anyway desiccated works just fine.
What the kerisik does, other than add extraordinary flavour, is to help soak up and lock-in surplus moisture in the curry, giving your rendang its trademark thick, unctuous look. But the coconut doesn’t stop there; coconut milk helps sweeten and enrich the recipe, adding fat and contributing greatly to its overall flavour.
Ox cheek is simply divine and my favourite cut of meat from any animal. Once you’ve tried it, it’ll be difficult to go back; the way the meat almost melts in your mouth is inimitable. For more ways to make use of this under-appreciated cut, see my recipes for Ox Cheek Goulash and Ale Braised Ox Cheek.
Ox Cheek Rendang
for the paste:
- 3 shallots, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger
- 10 dried chillies, soaked and de-seeded
- 1 lemongrass shoot
for the curry:
- 3 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 star anise
- 3 cloves
- 5 cardamom pods
- 1 inch piece of cinnamon bark
- 700g ox cheek, in large pieces
- 1 lemongrass shoot, tough outer removed and finely chopped
- 200ml coconut milk
- 200ml water
- 1 tbsp tamarind, soaked and pips removed
- 8 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 tbsp soft brown/palm sugar
- 6 tbsp desiccated coconut (kerisik), lightly browned
- salt, to taste
- Pop all the ingredients for the paste into a food processor and whizz until smooth.
- Heat the oil in a large pan and gently saute the prepared paste along with the star anise, cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon bark.
- After 2 minutes tip in the pieces of ox cheek and brown on all sides. Once browned add the lemongrass, coconut milk, water, tamarind, lime leaves, sugar and kerisik.
- Make sure everything is well combined before reducing the heat to a gentle simmer, cover with the lid and cook slowly for 2-3 hours.
- After 2-3 hours the excess moisture should have been soaked up, but if it hasn’t simply remove the lid and allow to reduce a little. Season to taste and serve with rice.
Cost: The ingredients list for this dish may seem extensive and expensive, but you have to remember that ox cheek is one of the cheaper cuts. Avoiding anywhere too expensive you should be able to source the meat for as little as £4.
As a result, this delicious Indonesian ox cheek rendang should set you back no more than around £6.