Sunday, September 12, 2010
The festive season really makes me slightly lazy. The food to celebrate Eid is of little help. Tis the season where Muslim homes will be filled with traditional fares laden with coconut milk, chilies and carbs. Desserts will be buttery and after a typical Syawal feast, I would be inclined to adjourn to the nearest couch for erm... a short rest.
Rendang is my all time Eid favorite. It's intensely spiced and dry, all its aromatic ingredients thickened into a paste-like gravy with coconut milk. The meat and gravy is smeared over lemang (glutinous rice cooked in bamboo, another Eid specialty) or ketupat (rice cooked in weaved coconut leaves). I can eat just that and be happy. Remembering some of my pass Eid visits to homes of dear friends, I would say in some occasions I cleaned off the rendang pots without much shyness or apology, leaving none for the next round of guests.
I've long procured this recipe from a kind friend but have never gotten around to making it. After tasting it the first time on the morning of Eid, I regretted waiting this long. I licked off the spatula and was tempted to lick the wok. It would be a lie to say it's not hard work, cooking a whole chicken to perfection really takes up some elbow grease. However, all that sweat and effort was worth it.
Since I am not fortunate enough to have learned how to make ketupat and it is impossible to make lemang in our flat (smoking charcoal fire, bamboo sticks, you get the picture), the rendang was spooned over ghee rice instead. Nothing short of greatness, we were contented to eat the same thing for the past two days.
In my excitement (or was it hunger) while cooking the rice, I stirred it without waiting for the pot to cool down. You can see from the photos the broken grains. Don't do what I did. Nothing beats the joy of a plate of perfectly cooked basmati rice with all its long grains intact. I've yet to achieve this, cooking basmati rice for less than ten times a year.
Now I know all my Muslim Malay friends reading this might go "oh I'm really sick of all that rendang and rice for the pass three days, give me some burger or pasta!" Well, all I can say to you is Eid Mubarak! and no, I can never have too much rendang, pass me some of yours.
Rendang Ayam Pedas (Spicy Dry Chicken Curry)
Adapted from a recipe from a friend of Mahariz Muzaffar.
- 1 whole chicken, cut up into 12 pieces
- 100 grams dried chilies, soaked and drains
- 200 grams shallots
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 stalks lemongrass (pounded)
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 2 inches galangal
- 3 centimeters ginger
- 2 turmeric leaves
- thick coconut milk from 2 coconuts
- 4 tablespoons toasted grated coconut (kerisik)
- peanut oil
- salt to taste
To prepare the kerisik or toasted coconut, add grated coconut to a dry wok and stir continuously until they turn golden brown. Blend the shallots, garlic, galangal and ginger into a paste in a food processor or blender.
Heat up some peanut oil in a large wok or a heavy stew pot. Saute the blended paste over high heat till fragrant. Blend the chilies and add it to the wok. Reduce the heat to medium high. Once the chili is cooked (about 5 minutes), add the coconut milk, turmeric leaves and lemongrass.
Cook until the mix has thickened somewhat (about 3 minutes), add the chicken, kerisik and kaffir lime leaves. Add salt to taste and cook until oil from the coconut milk has split (referred to as pecah/naik minyak in Malay). The dryness of the rendang is up to your taste. I like it dry, the gravy is paste like and adheres to the meat.
Serve with nasi minyak (ghee rice, recipe following) or plain warm rice.
Nasi Minyak (Ghee Rice)
Adapted from Najah Nasseri's recipe.
- 4 cups basmati rice
- 4 tablespoons ghee or butter
- kosher salt to taste
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise
- 5 cardamom pods
- 6 cloves
- 1 teaspoon saffron (optional)
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 6 cups water
- a handful of pine nuts, cashew nuts and pistachio nuts, roasted
- some yellow raisins
- some coriander leaves, chopped for garnish
Mix the saffron into the milk. Soak the rice for about 20 minutes and drain.
Fry the spices in ghee/butter until fragrant in a large wok. Add the rice and stir through for about a minute over low heat, taking care not to brown the grains. Add in the milk and salt and gently stir over a low fire until the mixture just starts to boil. Add the water, mix through and move to a rice cooker.
Once the rice is cooked, open the cover to release the steam. Switch off the cooker and let stand for about 20 minutes. Loosen the rice with a long chopstick. If you don't have saffron at hand, at this point you may add some yellow food coloring before stirring the rice.
Serve warm, layering the rice with the nuts, raisins and coriander leaves.
Note: If you are interested in the beef version of rendang, there is a good recipe at Bee's Rasa Malaysia. The spices are different to treat beef, it's not advisable to trade the chicken in this recipe for beef.
Kerisik can be found ready made in Singapore where freshly grated coconut is hard to come by.
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