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SYD Sous Vide Beef Rendang

One of my fondest food memories while growing up in Southeast Asia was a wonderfully spicy and fragrant curry called Rendang. I’ve been fortunate to have tried this dish when I lived in Malaysia and in my travels to Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand. I’ve even eaten it in the Netherlands as the Dutch are familiar with rendang through historical ties of colonialism of Indonesia. In 2011 an online poll by 35,000 people held by CNN International chose Rendang as the number one dish of their ‘World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods’ list. In Los Angeles where I live, I often order it when I’m at an Indonesian or Malaysian restaurant. Good rendang is hard to find as this dish takes a long to time to prepare properly and good ones take 4-5 hours of loving care to get it right. A spice paste needs to be sautéed before meat is added and cooked in coconut milk until the liquid is evaporated for the sauce to caramelize and the meat to absorb all the spices and become fork tender. This cooking technique makes the resulting flavors unique so if you like complex tastes and textures, this dish will definitely be a fantastic culinary experience.

Thanks to the kind folks at, I’ve been able to experiment cooking beef rendang with a 3-gallon sous vide water immersion oven they produce for the home cook. I wrote previously about how I got my loaner (see article) and my attempts to improve the classic American cheeseburger using sous vide technique. In this article, I share my easy and fool-proof sous vide secrets with you on how to make a delicious rendition of rendang. Before I get into the actual recipe, I’d like to tell the story of this dish because most of us enjoy food more when we learn about its origins. If you don’t, you’re welcome to skip to the recipe on the next page.

West Sumatra in the Indonesia Archipelago
If you spin a globe of the world and place you finger on Indonesia, you’ve located the place where this dish was born. If you look for the big island of Sumatra which is part of the archipelago of Indonesian islands, it was the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia who first served this spicy meat curry at ceremonial occasions and to honor guests.

Minangkabau beach
Often called “West Sumatran caramelized curry”, it is usually made of beef although other variants such as chicken, duck, mutton, eggs, and beef liver exist. Over the last two centuries, it spread throughout neighboring Southeast Asian countries and morphed into several variations.

Minangkabau in festive costumes
There are basically two types: Dry or Wet. The dry one is called the true rendang and the wet is called Kalio. While both have similar ingredients, the dry takes at least four hours of gentle stirring while standing at the stovetop while Kalio takes about an hour. So the dry version is a labor of love and true rendang was my Mount Everest to conquer with the Sous Vide Supreme unit.

Elegant Minankabau architecture
No family or village makes beef rendang exactly the same just like no two Italian families or regions make the same spaghetti sauce. For example, my version takes advantage of a sous vide machine that would probably look out of place in Minangkabau kitchen. I deliberately kept it simple and fool-proof without sacrificing flavor and texture. I developed my recipe using spices and ingredients typically found in a large US city. If you can invest 20 minutes of prep and 20 minutes of cooking, please try my simmer-and-forget-until-3 days-later recipe. You’ll be amply rewarded with a wonderfully exquisite, explosively flavorful, and fork-tender coconut beef curry.

SYD Sous Vide Beef Rendang

1 inch chunks of beef
After several tries at making this dish, I decided to simplify my rendang recipe into four “Lego” blocks: 1) spice paste, 2) liquids, 3) meat, and 4) aromatics. You prepare and sauté the spice paste and set aside (freeze excess for future use if you like). Then you grill or smoke the beef or meat of choice with some salt and pepper (I used my SYD Hot rub). Mix and place into a sous vide bag and add the aromatics. Simmer at 150 degrees for 3 days. Serve with steamed rice or refrigerate or freeze.

Tamarind Pulp from Indian grocery store

  • Total Time: 73 hours 45 mins
  • Yield: 2 to 4 1x


Units Scale
  • 2 lbs stew beef in 1 inch chunks (I used Choice grade brisket)
  • 1 tablespoon SYD Hot Rub or salt and pepper

Spice Paste

  • 5 Tablespoons finely minced lemon grass, white part only (discard any tough parts)
  • 4 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 8 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 6 teaspoons coriander powder. I toasted coriander seeds in a saucepan over gentle heat and ground it using a coffee grinder
  • 6 teaspoons mild chili powder
  • 1/2 cup canola oil, and more as needed to sauté the spice paste so it does not burn

Spice paste after sauteing

Liquid ingredients

  • 8 Tablespoons coconut milk (use only the cream part by letting a can of coconut milk sit for a day; open the can gently and skim off the thick coconut cream portion and discard the watery part)
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons tamarind paste (from Indian grocery store)

Use only the thick cream portion of the coconut milk


  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Thai or Serrano chilies, as many as you like
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 6 whole cardamom pods (from Indian grocery store)
  • 6 Kaffir lime leaves or substitute with lime zest (from Asian or Thai grocery store)


  • 4 Tablespoons toasted grated coconut to make golden-hued “kerisik” (toasted coconut in Malay language); unsweetened coconut flake package

Aromatics that go into the sous vide bag

All four “Lego” blocks in the sous vide bag


  1. Dice beef into 1 inch cubes. Sprinkle some SYD Hot Rub or salt and pepper. Char the outside surface of the beef cubes on a hot grill. Or smoke in a 275-degree pit for 30 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Place spice paste into a food processor. Turn on and drizzle enough canola oil to allow the spice paste to blend into a paste. Remove 250
  3. Heat sauté pan with two tablespoons canola oil. Transfer the spice paste to the sauté pan once the oil has warmed up. Sauté the spice mix under gentle heat until the oil begins to separate and the spice paste turns brown and fragrant (about 15-20 minutes). Set sauté pan aside to cool
  4. Mix the liquid ingredients in a bowl. Add the spice paste, browned meat, and aromatics. Stir thoroughly
  5. Place the mixture containing the four “Lego” blocks: meat, spice paste, liquids, and aromatics in a gallon sous vide bag.
  6. Put into your Sous Vide Supreme @150F for 3 days or more depending on how tender you want your beef to be. I found 3 days is about right for my Choice grade brisket chunks but your time may vary depending on the cut of meat you used
  7. Remove and cut open the bag. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Mix in the toasted coconut flakes before serving with some steamed Jasmine rice. Enjoy!
  • Author: Harry Soo
  • Prep Time: 45 mins
  • Cook Time: 73 hours
  • Category: Entree