When you talk about Rendang, almost immediately everyone will mention the famous Beef Rendang (Rendang Daging Lembu in Malay). I love Rendang for it's intensely complex and depth of flavours and it is an incredibly satisfying dish to enjoy while cosying up in the house, underneath the Slangket (oh yes, I have one of those), away from the cold autumnal weather at the moment with a nice bowl of steamed rice.
The cooking of Rendang is notorious for being painstakingly laborious. The almost-dry consistency is achieved by slow simmering of the coconut milk in a low heat for hours and hours until most of the liquid evaporates and the reddish oil oozes out. At this point, the braising process turns into frying, thus slowly developing a dark, rich aromatic paste which coats the beautifully soft tender meat.
This chicken version is just as delicious and cook in the same way as you would do with the more ubiquitous beef but the good news is, it doesn't requires the same long cooking time as with the beef. And like any good Rendang, the flavours continue to develop overnight so any leftover is absolutely wonderful the following day. In fact, my nan would always used to cook any Rendang a couple of days before serving just so the richness matured and yield an even more tasty dish. Obviously the downside is trying to resist picking at it every time I walked past, and just between you and me, I never could. *guilty looks*
Ingredients (Serves 4)
12-15 pieces chicken, preferably thigh and legs
sunflower or groundnut oil
400ml coconut milk
1 1/2 tbsp gula Melaka / palm sugar
2 tomatoes, quarterd
sea salt, to taste
1 fresh green chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced, for garnish
For the Rempah (Spice Paste):
60g freshly grated or desiccated coconut
3 large red chillies, deseeded and chopped (feel free to add more chillies if you like it spicy)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 kaffir lime leaves
3 candlenuts or macademia nuts
2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp finely chopped fresh galangal
2 stem lemongrass, bruised and cut into 3 pieces
Fry the coconut in a dry frying pan over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes, until lightly brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Remove and set aside.
Put all the rempah/spice paste ingredients in a food processor, together with the toasted coconut and whizz into a smooth paste. Add a little of the oil if necessary to keep the mixture turning.
( If you are traditionalist, do this is a stone mortar and pestle and pound into a paste. )
In a large heavy-based pot , heat up 2 tablespoon of the oil and stir-fry the paste over low-moderate heat for about 6-8 minutes, until fragrant and most of the moisture have evaporated. Add the chicken and stir well to coat with the aromatic paste.
Add the coconut milk, palm sugar and gently bring to the boil over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and reduce the heat to low, partially cover with a lid and simmer for at least 1- 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently. Season with salt to taste.
The rendang is ready when the meat is tender and the sauce has almost dried up, leaving a thick consistency and is shiny with a thin layer of oil. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with the green chilli.