Thursday, March 1, 2012

Partial FAIL: an attempt at Indonesian cuisine

Wow... so my first real attempt at cooking an Indonesian dish was somewhat of an epic fail .  I have decided it is not my fault, though.  I wanted to make beef rendang, a fragrant, somewhat spicy beef dish that is from Padang, in west Sumatra.  It's so good.

Photo courtesy of Rasa Malaysia.
I started with a recipe in an Indonesian cookbook that the lovely Colleen gave me before I left, The Complete Indonesian Cookbook.  The book had a recipe for beef rendang, and, although the recipe seemed wildly simplistic to me, both in number of ingredients and level of detail in the directions, I figured I would try it anyway.  After doing the prep work and getting the dish going, I had some questions about the directions, which urged me to simply "cook until beef is dry."  No indication of how long that might be. 15 minutes?  An hour?  I looked up some other beef rendang recipes online, and they all indicated that this dish is meant to be slow-cooked over several (3-4, even up to 5) hours.  Information that would have been useful yesterday!!

After an hour and a half... still very little caramelized coconut milk color.
 At this point, the lack of specificity, combined with my mid-cooking background research caused me to become quite suspicious, yet I carried on (and by "carried on," I mean I continued to let the dish cook until we were essentially starving and couldn't wait any longer... almost 2 hours).  Ultimately I ended up with a nicely flavored sauce, slightly tough beef (not cooked long enough) and a decent meal, but definitely not beef rendang.  I'm not sure what the cookbook was going for, but the end result was nothing like the deeply spiced, caramelized, super tender dish I've had here at restaurants.  Definitely not enough color in the sauce.

The final product... tasted good, but not quite on the money.
Not a total fail, but it definitely whet my appetite for trying again to make authentic beef rendang similar to what I've had in restaurants.  It shall happen!  Saya akan coba lagi!*  I am thinking of trying this recipe next...

* "I will try again!"

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