Rendang is a type of cooking whereby the basic ingredients, usually meat (occasionally chicken, lamb, mutton or vegetables) were slowly cooked for several hours in coconut milk and spices until the liquid almost dissipate, leaving the meat still moist and coated by the spices. When kept at a room temperature Rendang can be stored for weeks.
Originally from Minangkabau, Rendang now became one of the national dish in Indonesia and favourite dish in Southeast Asia countries such as in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and the Philippines.
The Minangkabau ethnic group ( or known as Minang or Padang) is indigenous to the highlands of West Sumatra, and the world largest matrilineal society. Re-known for their skills as merchants and emphasis on education, the Minangs had produced some influential Indonesian poets such as the late Chairil Anwar (“Aku”); statesmen such as the late M. Moh Hatta the first Indonesian Vice President; religious scholars such as the late Buya Hamka. The Minang’s are also famous for their “merantau” which is a process of leaving home and travel to live in new places.
Various writings and studies on this particular dish found that in Minangkabau; Rendang is revered to as an embodiment of discussion and consultation with the elders (musyawarah). And that the four main ingredients represents Minangkabau society as a whole:
- The meat (dagiang) symbolises the Niniak Mamak, the traditional clan leaders such as the datuk, the nobles, royalty and revered elders.
- The coconut milk (karambia) symbolises the Cadiak Pandai, intellectuals, teachers, poets and writers.
- The chilly (lado) symbolises the Alim Ulama, clerics, ulama and religious leaders. The hotness of the chilly symbolises Sharia.
- The spice mixture (pemasak) symbolises the rest of Minangkabau society.
These days serving Rendang is not limited to only special occasions as before, you may easily find Rendang in Indonesia at food stalls especially restaurants that specialises in West Sumatra food well-known as Padang Restaurants or Warung Padang . Although on ceremonial occasions such as weddings or religious festivals this dish is always presented as a special dish to honour the guests.
You do not have to eat Rendang with rice, try adding Rendang to your sandwich as a filling. For those following vegan or vegetarian diet, you may want to change meat base Rendang to vegetables such as jack fruit or cassava.
This dish will be available at the “Indonesian Iconic Dishes and Folktales” 7th May 2016.