I love Beef Rending and Nasi Lemak and never thought that running a restaurant would grow me a loathing for nothing less than what was our bestselling dish at the time! Recovery arrived slowly but surely–and at some point after we had given up the restaurant did I find the courage to eat or cook Nasi Lemak again. On hindsight, it might’ve been a case of ‘Nasi Lemak Overdose’ simply from endlessly handling the ingredients on a daily basis with factory precision at a feverish pace. Then eating it all the time. I mean, ALL the time! Love cupcakes? Don’t start a bakery selling cupcakes! You get the idea, yes.
Well, back to this amazing dish, I hope I’ve not discredited it in any way citing my gag reflex—after all that I might have been having first trimester morning sickness, and it was in past tense after all! I did come to love it again, as you can see. There’re virtually hundreds of versions of Nasi Lemak (translates to ‘rice in fat’; the fat is derived from cooking the rice in coconut milk) everywhere in Asia but mine is my very own special blend that used to be the best seller at our cafe and restaurant, BARANG.
The generic Singapore style version is comprised of coconut rice, fried ‘kuning’ fish (yellowstripe scad; best deep fried to a crisp), fried egg, side condiments of fried chilli-anchovies-peanuts and cucumber, and of course Nasi Lemak won’t be what it is without a generous dollop of its signature spicy yet tangy sambal chilli dip that’s so tantamount to this dish. I enjoy it even more with some ‘otak-otak’ (grilled fish cake made from ground fish flesh mixed with tapioca starch and various spices) and piquant fried crispy chicken wings. Our BARANG version of Nasi Lemak is more a trio-combination of Singapore- Malaysian-Indonesian version that included Beef Rendang and Nyonya Chicken Potato curry, and fried chicken wings.
BEEF RENDANG RECIPE:
The following ingredients can be processed in an electric food processor but I just relish pounding up mine at home using a large mortar and pestle till a very fine ‘rempah'(means ‘spice’ in Malay) paste is achieved
8 big red chillies
4 small bird’s eye chillies
1 clove garlic
knob of ginger; 2-3 cm, crushed finely
galangal; 4-5 knobs crushed finely
3 stalks lemon grass (only the white part)
6 candlenuts (optional)
120 gm grated or dessicated coconut
1.5 kg cubed chuck or rump beef (I use osso bucco which cost more but is very tender)
1 tsp belachan (shrimp paste); toasted
1 T soy sauce
2 T thick dark soy sauce (not kecap manis!)
3 T curry powder (blend with some water into a dry thick paste)
1/2 C coconut milk extracted from 1/2 coconut, OR: 1 can of 450ml thick coconut cream
1 C water, or skim milk.
1. Heat about 10 T of vegetable oil and fry first the dessicated coconut, belachan, then the curry powder, and finally all the grounded ingredients or the rempah paste, until fragrant.
2. Add beef cubes and seal all the sides. Add the seasoning and stir-fry for about 6 minutes or until the beef is no longer pink.
3. Add the coconut milk, water, and simmer (pay attention to stir it often to prevent burning)for 3 hours until tender, or alternatively use a pressure cooker and cook for 20 minutes. The final gravy texture should be thick (not soupy like a curry is), and the oil should have risen to the surface.
Coconut Rice: (about 4 servings of rice)
2.5 C white jasmine rice (for about 4 people)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 whole garlic, with skin on
3 pandan leaves, tied into a knot
1 stalk of lemon grass
2 stalks of curry leaves
150 ml of coconut milk (slightly more than 1 cup)
Cook the above together in a rice cooker. You can’t go wrong! At our restaurant, we used to use pandan juice in place of water for the rice to give it an even nicer aroma and flavour…the greenish rice also made it an extremely unique Nasi Lemak.