Pork Rendang Thai-Style
A ‘Rendang’ is an Indonesian dish in which the main ingredient, usually a meat, is cooked slowly in spiced Coconut Milk until the milk has almost disappeared and the meat is supremely tender and infused with the flavors of the braising liquid.
Indonesian cuisine has its own range of preferred spices and my Rendang here departs from the traditional to give the dish a very Thai character. I have actually employed a spice blend that is typically used for the Thai specialty Tom Yum Soup, and, more particularly, I tried out a commercial product, the previously reviewed Jack Hua Brand Sour Shrimp Paste.
The Basic Method for a Pork Rendang
As in curries, or other dishes of this nature, the spices are generally fried to develop their flavors and infuse them into the oil and other base ingredients (such as the onions used here).
As mentioned, I am using a commercial spice paste for this recipe. The paste is based on onion and dried shrimp in soybean oil with chili, lemongrass and galanga providing an aromatic spiciness. Lime, kaffir lime leaf and citric acid are included for the sour flavor, which is central to a good Tom Yum soup.
Although the paste does contain chili already, the heat quotient is not especially high, so I am adding three tablespoons of Sambal Oelek as well.
Once the aroma of the spices rises, you briefly brown the meat and then add the Coconut Milk to begin the simmering process.
Pork, by the way, is not widely consumed In Indonesia, which is a Muslim nation, but it is enjoyed very much in Thai cuisine.
About 45 minutes or so into the simmering, the liquid will have reduced by at least half and some of the oil will have begun to separate out. At this point, you turn down the heat to a very low simmer and continue to reduce.
After a further 45 minutes to 1 hour, the meat will be fork tender. The sauce should have reduced to little more than a thick coating and it will also have darkened due to caramelization.
One of the features of the oily Rendang is that it keeps well in tropical climes and improves with a little bit of aging. Indeed, as with many curries or stewed dishes, just letting it cool in the fridge overnight and then reheating for service will make it that much better.
Your Recipe Card:
Pork Rendang Thai-Style
- 1 ½ lbs. Pork cut into medium sized cubes;
- 1 cup Onion finely chopped;
- ¼ cup Cooking Oil;
- 3 tbsp. Tom Yum Paste or Thai curry paste of your choice;
- 3 tbsp. Sambal Oelek;
- 1 tbsp. Sugar;
- 1 ½ cups Thick Coconut Milk
- Heat the oil in a suitable pot over moderate high heat and the sauté the onion until soft.
- Add the spice pastes and sugar and stir for a moment or two longer until they give off their aroma.
- Add the meat and stir until all the pieces are lightly browned and no pink remains.
- Add the coconut milk and turn down the heat so as to maintain a moderately vigorous simmer.
- Cook the Rendang down for about 45 minutes or so until the liquid has reduced by at least half and some of the oil has begun to separate out. At this point, turn down the heat to a very low simmer and continue to reduce for a further 45 minutes to one hour until the sauce is reduced to little more than a thick coating on the meat.
- Serve with rice, and some small side dishes (peanuts, chopped peppers and onions, or other accompaniments of choice).