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Kay's House of Treats: Chicken Rendang with Rice

Monday, July 15, 2013

Chicken Rendang with Rice

Rendang is an indonesian meat dish, mostly made with beef but can also be made with other proteins as well. It's not only popular in Indonesia, but also in other countries in Far East Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Phillipines etc). The procedure involved requires cooking the meat in a coconut curry comprising coconut milk and a spice paste for a few hours (1-2 for chicken and 2-4 for beef) till all the liquid is absorbed and the meat has absorbed all the spices. As the meat stews in the coconut milk mixture, the liquid becomes more and more reduced until finally, only the oils of the coconut milk are left. The meat is then finally cooked  in the remaining coconut oil, and the final dish is not just intensely flavorful but moist and tender since it has been simmered for so long. 

I had actually heard of Rendang a number of times, and the final push that made me google up a description and a recipe was a stunning photograph on a restaurant's menu. Since the dish on the menu was beef, and I rarely eat beef, I had to look up a chicken rendang recipe instead of just ordering it. I love the combination of the spices that are used in making rendang; they are ingredients that can easily be found in our local kitchens, but the final dish has a flavor profile that is completely different from regular desi dishes. It has the spice & flavor element which we love, but the coconut milk adds that oriental element which makes it taste similar to a Thai curry. It's a really simple recipe, but it just requires pre-planning because the chicken needs to simmer for that requisite time to get that delicious flavor. 

Serve with plain white rice, or cumin rice, or can also be served with spiced rice. I served it with "Nasi Lamek" which is an Indonesian Coconut Rice with Pandan leaf, but I couldn't find the right ingredients so it tasted quite similar to 'Baghair Chawal". 

Chicken Rendang
Adapted from the Chicken Rendang recipe from

1/2 kg chicken (boneless - cut into cubes)
2 stalks of lemongrass - bottom white portion, sliced horizontally (I didn't have fresh lemongrass, so I substituted with 3-4 pieces of dried
2 cloves of garlic
2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 inch ginger (chopped/sliced) - its best to use Galangal (Thai Ginger), but as it is not available here, ginger is a good substitute
1 medium onion - chopped 
2-3 dried red chillies (adjust if required)
3 whole star anise/badiyaal ka Phool
2 3-inch pieces cinnamon/Daal Chini
4 Cardamom pods-cracked open/Elaichi
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp Salt, or to taste
2 tablespoon tamarind pulp/about 1 tbsp of tamarind dissolved in warm water, with seeds drained
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice

1) The first that is required is to make the flavoring paste. Put lemongrass, garlic, turmeric, ginger, onion, chilli's and lemon juice in a blender or small food processer and blend for 2-3 minutes. If required, you may add a tablespoon of water. Blend till all the ingredients are well pureed. 

2) Heat oil in a wok/skillet on medium heat. Add cinnamon, star anise & cardamom and saute for about 2 minutes, till they have started releasing their fragrance. Add the paste to the spices and saute for about 5 minutes, stiring constantly till the mixture is cooked and the raw smell disappears. 
3) Add coconut milk, sugar, tamarind pulp and salt, and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a gentle boil, simmer on low heat to reduce the coconut milk to about 1/4th the original quanity while stiring frequently. Add soya sauce and salt to taste. 
3) Add chicken coating it with the coconut milk and simmer it on low heat for about 1 hour stiring every 10 minutes to ensure that the chicken does not stick to the bottom of the pan. 
4) After cooking for an hour, the liquid mixture in the pan would have almost disappeared. Keep the chicken on simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the chicken turns a golden brown and you can see that the coconut milk has disappeared and what is remaining is the oil from the coconut milk. 
Note: My family likes a bit more gravy, which is why I did not reduce the coconut milk as much as was required (about 40% of original amount) and I cooked the chicken for about 55 minutes in total. 

5) Transfer the dish to to serving bowl and serve with rice and fresh salad. 

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