Chicken Rendang

chicken rendang

Rendang is a spicy meat dish that originated from Indonesia, and is a very popular dish throughout Southeast Asia.  The dish is rich in spices and traditionally takes about four hours to cook.  The meat pieces are usually slow cooked in coconut milk and a paste of mixed ground spices called pemasak (usually ginger, galangal, tumeric, lemon grass, garlic, shallot, chillies).  Traditional rendang is dry, during which the meat is slow cooked until the liquid completely evaporates and the remaining dried rendang is almost black in color.  This is usually served for special ceremonies.

The rendang I am more familiar with is “wet” as the coconut milk has not completely evaporated; it has a light golden brown color and can be likened to a caramelized version of curry.  This is the version we made during our Penang Cooking Class.  We also boiled the chicken in water as we prepared the spice paste in order to shorten the overall cooking time.

The generous use of numerous spices give this dish a wonderfully complex flavor, but it also makes it a lot of work to prepare.  I highly doubt I will have the time and patience to prepare this at home… but I will certainly have a greater appreciation for this dish when I order it in a restaurant!  We served this dish with Tomato Rice and Penang Achar.

Chicken Rendang (recipe by Nazlina)


  • 1/2 chicken (cut into 6 pieces)
  • 6 fresh large red chilies
  • 2 cloves, 1 star anise, I cardamom, 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 inch fresh turmeric (or ¼ tsp turmeric powder)
  • 4 cili padi (birds eye chilies – optional) – if you wish it to be more spicy
  • 2 pieces tamarind apples (“asam keeping” in Malay) OR 2 thick tbs of tamarind juice
  • 200ml thick coconut milk
  • 2 tbs kerisik (coconut paste)
  • 2 young turmeric leaves (shredded) – if you can find them
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (shredded finely)
  • 1-2 lemon grass (bruised)
  • 5 candlenuts
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1 inch galangal
  • 10 shallots or 4 purple onions
  • 1/2 head of garlic
  • 1 tbs dark brown sugar or palm sugar, chopped small
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt to taste


Boil chicken with slow fire with 3 cups water. Remove some water till only the chicken pieces are half merged in the water.

boil chicken

In another wok or saucepan, heat up ¼ cup cooking oil then add in all ground spices—fresh chilies, ginger, garlic, galangal, turmeric, onion and candle nut with whole spices (cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, star anise and cloves).

fresh ground spices mixture

Wait until the oil separates, then add in chicken pieces with some of the broth.  Add tamarind apple or tamarind juice together with bruised lemongrass.

add the chicken to the mixture

When the sauce is reduced, add in thick coconut milk, salt, brown sugar (or palm sugar), turmeric leaves and kaffir lime leaves.

When the mixture bubbles gently, put in kerisik, let simmer slowly for about 20 minutes then serve.

One Response to “Chicken Rendang”
  1. Norma-Platanos, Mangoes and Me! says:

    This absolutely a delicious looking dish.

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