The meat in rendangs is typically not browned at the beginning. It gets browned at the end, when the rendang turns "dry." Here I brown it first anyway, just out of habit, but feel free to skip that step and shorten the recipe. I've offered some substitutions, but try to find kaffir lime leaves and galangal for best effect. If you can find fresh turmeric, all the better. You can also make this in a slow-cooker, but evaporation is important, so keep the lid ajar. I highly recommend doubling the recipe, as it can keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, and it freezes just fine.
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 inch ginger roughly chopped
4 large cloves garlic roughly chopped
4 large shallots roughly chopped (about 7 ounces)
chili pepper flakes to taste (I used about 3 TBS)
2 TBS vegetable oil
2 pounds beef shanks or shortribs cut into large cubes
2 stalks lemongrass white part only, bruised but left whole
4 kaffir lime leaves (important ingredient, but lime zest will do in a pinch)
1 inch galangal sliced into coins (no galangal? use ginger)
1 can coconut milk (taste before using - it can be rancid)
1 TBS light brown sugar (the recipe calls for palm sugar, but it makes no difference here)
Add all the salt, coriander, turmeric, ginger, garlic, shallots, and chili flakes to a food processor and turn into a smooth spice paste.
Add the oil to a heavy bottomed pot and heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Fry the beef in batches, allowing each surface to brown before turning. Put aside for now.
Add the spice paste to the hot oil along with the lemongrass, lime leaves and galangal. Fry until very fragrant and most of the moisture has evaporated (about 4-5 minutes). Add the coconut milk and palm sugar, and then return the beef to the pot, stir to combine then turn the heat down to medium low and loosely cover with a lid (you want some steam to escape). Stir the rendang periodically and simmer for 3-4 hours until the meat is very tender.
Once the meat is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated (about 4 hours), remove the lid, ditch the lemongrass, and turn up the heat. You'll need to stir the mixture constantly to prevent it from burning, but you want to evaporate as much liquid as you can without burning the meat. At this point there should be quite a bit of oil in the pot from the meat so you're essentially frying the sauce and concentrating the flavors.
The rendang is done when there is almost no sauce left and the meat is dark brown. Ideally you'll let this sit overnight out of the fridge
for the flavors to evenly distribute into the meat. During this time, the meat will turn chocolate and the flavors will deepen.