How to Cook Malay Chicken Rendang
Chicken Rendang: An Authentic Malay Recipe
Malay cuisine is characterized by dishes with many special ingredients. Having the right ingredients is crucial to getting the right flavor, such that if you can't get the right ingredients, the food won't be authentic. For example, let's look at chicken rendang. This traditional Malay dish is tedious to prepare, but it's worth it. Following my move to the United States, I started learning and gathering Malay traditional recipes from my mother (including this chicken rendang). I feel compelled to carry on the Malay culinary tradition because I love the cuisine so much.
What Is Kerisik?
One of the main ingredients in this dish is kerisik, or desiccated coconut. Kerisik is made from shredded coconut that is toasted in a pan and pounded into a thick, oily paste. For an authentic flavor, I use a mortar and pestle to make the paste. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you can use a blender; however, I must warn that the result is not quite the same.
Chicken Rendang and the Eid Festival
Chicken rendang is traditionally served during the Eid Festival. To serve all the guests, we usually prepare a large quantity of this dish in order to feed everyone.
However, you don't need to wait for the Eid Festival to serve this meal; it's also wonderful for a family dinner on the weekend. The dish is cooked with a variety of spices, coconut milk, and kerisik. In the end, the sauce thickens as the chicken becomes tender and moist on the inside. Serve it with steamed white rice or bread. Yummy!
For making the kerisik:
- 1 cup shredded coconut
For making the rendang:
- 1 whole chicken (or chicken breast). There are no rules regarding what type of chicken (organic or non-organic), or how many pieces of chicken.
- 1 can coconut milk (add half can of water to break it apart)
- 7 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 to 3 star anise
- 2 to 3 cloves
- 2 to 3 pieces green cardamom
- 6 shallots
- 10 dried chilies, soaked in warm water until soft, drained and seeded
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and halved
- 2 teaspoons fresh turmeric/turmeric powder
- 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
- 1 inch galangal
- 1-2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
- Salt to taste
- Sugar (optional)
- To make kerisik: Toast the shredded coconut in a pan without oil over medium heat. Toast the coconut until it turns golden brown. Pound the toasted coconut using a mortar and pestle to make a thick, oily paste. You can save the extra kerisik in the fridge.
- To make the spice paste: Using a food processor or a blender, grind the soaked chilies, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, turmeric, and galangal with water. Make a thick paste.
- Heat oil in a wok or heavy pan. Saute the cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves, and star anise for a few seconds. Next, add the spice paste and the kerisik. Cook the mixture until the oil floats above the paste.
- Add the chicken into the spice mixture. Scrape the paste from the bottom of the pan to make sure it is all well combined with the chicken.
- Pour the coconut milk into the pan and bring to the boil while stirring continuously. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, until the sauce begins to thicken. This may take 45 minutes to an hour. (The chicken will become tender and the reduced sauce will be very thick.)
- Season with salt to taste. If you would like the rendang to have some sweetness to it, you may add optional sugar.
- Serve hot with rice or bread.
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