Beef rendang: The way to rekindle a dry and fried creative spirit


I’ve heard that Dubai summers can be quite depressing. Imagine being stuck in an enclosed space filled with 10 ginormous SUVs, all revving up their engines with heat levels steadily increasing and exhausts on full blast right in your face that breathing is the most difficult thing to do. Imagine the suns fierce rays pinching every pore on your skin, burning you to a crunchy dry, unattractive crisp.That’s how it feels on most days.

And if you’re stuck in Dubai with no travel plans out of this country and just sick of bumping elbow-to-elbow with the crowds at the shopping malls, then I suppose depression is possible. The past weeks have been a routine of office-work-office-work. Nowhere to go. Hardly anything decent to do, except enjoy our wee flat’s air conditioning.

This heat does fry your creativity and spirits like it did to me. I actually don’t mind being burnt once in a while because when you get burnt, you do learn something new. Like the first time I tried Beef Rendang.

Sandy Daza wrote about Sarinah Cafe on his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer many years ago

I was young and quite reckless when I ordered Beef Rendang at Sarinah Cafe, this now-closed-down Indonesian joint in Makati, Philippines. The server politely asked whether I wanted it non-spicy or spicy. I knew I could take the heat, so I said “Of course, spicy” with a smile. The server, perhaps taken aback by my answer, asked me “Are you sure m’am?” and I again nodded my head in consent.

“Yes, I am sure.” I replied.

And when she said spicy, I didn’t know she meant HELLUVAHSPICY. The first few bites were heaven. The beef melted on my tongue, while its thick and oily coconut gravy was subdued by the moist spoonfuls of white rice. Then the heat started to kick in as my lips turned Angelina Jolie, red and swollen from the burn. But I still managed to lick my plate clean. Beef rendang burnt a permanent scar on my palate that kept coming back for more. I continued eating Beef Rendang ever since.

I have been craving for this particular dish for quite some time now and have sadly not gotten a chance to reunite with my tastebuds. I’ve failed miserably in my search, scouring Singaporean and Indonesian hole-in-the-walls around Dubai for a perfect Beef Rendang bite. I was ready to give up and abandon the search until…I read Arva’s post about a Malaysian Ramadan food bazaar selling this elusive Southeast Asian favorite of mine. Yes, Beef rendang is of Indonesian origin, but is also quite popular in neighboring countries Malaysia and Singapore :-)

Of course, as would any parched creative person thirsty for inspiration, I grabbed the opportunity in the hope that I’d be able to kiss my lips against the rich fire alarm worthy spicy beef dish. It may hopefully reignite the dying creative spark in me.

Crowding for Malaysian food

In fear of running out of beef rendang and other Malaysian goodies, fellow food blogger Neelu and I arrived at the Malaysian consulate FIRST. And when I say first, I mean we were there even before the food sellers arrived. We were that excited! But the un-airconditioned wait was torture, more so for Neelu, who was fasting. It was hot and humid, as usual. We couldn’t drink a drop and we were antsy with Malaysian food anticipation. Then other people of varied skin and hair colors (spotted a number of westerners aside from us Asians) started trickling in…I guess we weren’t the only ones excited :-)

Slowly, the sellers started trickling in as well. It started with the curry puff and pulut udang, sticky rice sticks filled with shredded shrimp and coconut wrapped in banana leaves then grilled. Then the other curry puff guy came with different stylings of the fried pastry: potato curry, tuna, chicken, beef. And then FINALLY, a huge SUV backed up at the entrance of the Malaysian consulate garage and unloaded boxes, bowls and coolers of unidentified Malaysian treats. My gut told me that the most awaited seller arrived as the small crowd of foodies surrounded the table they were quickly setting up.

The food offerings

My heart started beating faster as I saw the bowl of what I knew was my most awaited dish: Beef rendang, sitting in a huge stainless steel bowl.

“Is that beef rendang?” I asked, just to confirm my gut feeling. The seller shook her head to confirm, while entertaining the two other hungry foodies beside me ordering their respective Malaysian food haul. “Two please. One plain beef rendang and the other one with the rice.” I said, pointing to the yellow rice, glistening in the heat with raisins, saffron threads and cinnamon bark, which the lovely seller identified as nasi minyak.

My heart almost leapt out of my chest in excitement as the thick stew plopped into its plastic container. Come to mama! I squealed inside my head as my grubby fingers took the beef rendang. Mine! Mine! Mine! Mwahahaha! This is the most excited I have ever been this entire summer!

The curry puff and pulut udang man :-)

The other curry puff guy

I rushed home, of course, to make sure that my beef rendang stash and other Malaysian treats would stay safe and sound and ready for the tasting. Did I gobble up my beef rendang as soon as I got home?

Well…I had to wait for another day.

Beef rendang is one of those dishes that actually taste yummier over time. And so I waited a little more, or maybe more like camped outside the fridge and peeping inside every 10 minutes to check if the beef rendang is still there (as if it would crawl out of the fridge).

So this morning, I cooked a new batch of white rice to eat with my reheated beef rendang. (I prefer to let the beef rendang flavors shine, rather than eating it with complex flavored rice such as a nasi minyak) And so I savored each spoonful of beef rendang, despite the slight tingling on my lips from the heat. The wait was all worth it.

Maybe not all things that burn can fry and dry you up. This one just sparked some inspiration in me :-) Good thing I still have some more in the fridge 😉

Delirious about delicious,


P.S. Thank you so much to Neelu for being my partner-in-foodie-crime :-) *hugs*

P.P.S. Unfortunately, yesterday was the last Friday of the Malaysian consulate food bazaar. Here’s to hoping that they open a night food bazaar after Eid :-) Ramadan Kareem to our Muslim brothers and sisters!

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  1. inafryingpan says

    I am SO glad you had a chance to go Didi! This post totally made my day 😀 Did you try those pretty karipaps (the same ones weren’t there on the day I had gone) and the Cekodook Pisang? Those banana fritters were sold out when I’d reached two Fridays ago :(

    • says

      I only got one of each :-( If I bought too much, the husband might not eat them. Unfortunately, he liked them…so now he asks why I didn’t buy more. Sheesh.

      I would’ve loved my Cekodook Pisang fresh from the pan though with some sweetened coconut milk maybe? :-)

  2. Sabrina S says

    Mmmmmm. Beef Rendang! My former maid’s really great at cooking this. 

    Anyway, yeah…. depression really is highly possible. 

  3. says

    This was fun and really enjoyable. And I love beef rendang too! I’ll be adding you to my blogroll so I can keep track and be back for your new posts!