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Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 10, 2011: Tempeh Rendang

Cindy's enthusiasm for her newest cookbook spilled over into Sunday, with our afternoon plan revolving around the long, slow process of making ourselves a rendang. The original recipe in Sri Owen's book was for a beef rendang, but she provided some basic instructions on how to switch the beef out for tempeh, the traditional Indonesian veg protein. Making this dish is a commitment! We ended up simmering things for around three hours to reduce the 2 litres of coconut milk down to the dryish final product pictured above.

I made a mistake in transferring the mix to our electric wok while it was still too watery, meaning it didn't quite fry off and brown the way I was hoping it would, but it still worked out okay. The spice paste seemed like it would be super flavoursome when I whizzed it up, but the coconut milk took most of the sting out of it, making this a bit milder than I prefer. Next time I'd probably increase the various spices by 50% or so and maybe drop out a can of coconut milk - I wonder if maybe beef soaks up the liquid more than tempeh does? Still, it was pretty fun to watch this slowly turn from a big soupy mess into a wok full of chunky spice-crusted tempeh. I reckon we'll make this again, but with the few tweaks discussed above.

Tempeh Rendang
(adapted slightly from the recipe for rendang daging in Indonesian food by Sri Owen)

6 shallots, sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 inch piece of turmeric, peeled and chopped
6-10 fresh red chillies, seeded
1 inch piece of galangal, peeled and chopped
(I would increase the quantities of all of the above next time!)
2 litres of coconut milk
1-2 bay leaves
1 lemongrass stem
2 teaspoons salt
1.2 kg tempeh, cut into 2cm cubes

Blend the shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, chillies and galangal with 4 tablespoons of the coconut milk until it all turns into a smooth paste.

Combine this paste with the rest of the coconut in a large pot, add the tempeh and the rest of the ingredients.

Stir it all together and bring to a gentle simmer, uncovered for an hour and a half or so. I gave up after 90 minutes, but probably should have kept going. You want a fairly thick coconut milk mush that has reduced down substantially.

Transfer the whole mixture to a wok and keep cooking, until the coconut milk starts to turn oily and starts to fry rather than boil. Once the frying starts, you need to stir constantly. Keep cooking until all the coconut milk has disappeared and the oil has been absorbed into the coating on the tempeh. Take out the lemongrass and bay leaves and serve with steamed rice.


  1. omg rendang rendang rendang.

    sorry i fail at offering anything constructive in this comment. :oD

  2. This sounds delicious apart from the tempeh which I don't really care for. Do you think it would work with tofu or seitan?

  3. Steph - rendang love counts as constructive!

    Mel - I'd be quite wary of cooking tofu for several hours! Most of them would surely fall apart. Seitan might be worth a try, if it doesn't get too tough when cooked so long. There might be some vegetables (waxy potatoes?) that are tough enough for the job!

  4. It was a bit silly of me to contemplate cooking tofu for hours. I did find a version of the Sri Owen recipe that was done with seitan so I'll have to give it a go one day.

  5. Cool! Good to know that someone else has already found rendang success with seitan. :-)

  6. Hello!
    Tempeh rendang sounds like a novelty, actually. In Indonesia, we usually replace the meat with seitan or this mock meat made from mushroom stems (I don't know what you call it, but it has a very believeable beef texture). and rendang is usually cooked for even more than 2 hours!. for it to reach that drier, chunkier state, you'd have to wait several days because it gets better with time. At least that's what I know of the meat version. And rendang (the meat version) can certainly last for days. We tend to treat it like thanksgiving turkey after eid-al-fitr (ramadhan) celebration. Days of rendang...
    glad it turned out ok!

  7. Hi thoughtsthatdance! Thanks for those comments, we might try rendang with seitan in the future and it looks like Mel is pretty keen. :-)