Rendang is traditionally a beef “stew”. It’s not that easy to make if you start from scratch. It involves mashing the right proportion of spices. I don’t think I could do it from scratch, to tell you the truth. The nice thing is that you can buy the packet of spices at most asian stores and that takes 80% of the work out, because once you have the spices done, you’re all set! Rendang is great hot, warm or cold. I personally loved it as “hangover food”.
I became vegetarian when I came to the US. A couple of months ago I was talking with my husband about possible foods I could cook and suddenly we both said “OMG, we could make TOFU RENDANG!”. He had tried Rendang before be both turned vegetarian and it was his favorite dish. When I realized I could totally make the Beef Rendang dish into a completely vegan/vegetarian dish, I got really excited! On another note, you can add small sliced potatoes to the mix to vary it a little… but here is the recipe:
1 block of tofu (the more natural kind, the more porous kind… NOT the smooth kind you get in the unrefrigerated sections of the supermarket). The more bumpy and porous it is, the better.
1 can of coconut milk (if you are watching calories, then get “lite” coconut milk, but if you’re not, go to an asian store and ask the clerk for the creamiest and best kind).
1 sachet of rendang spice mix.
1 serving of rice to eat with the tofu rendang.
Now, the most important part is the tofu and preparing it. Like I said, it has to be the uneven, porous kind. You can usually find that kind of tofu in the refrigerated section of a supermarket. I personally get the “Extra Firm Tofu” at Trader Joe’s in the refrigerated section. I wouldn’t go with “long life” “unrefrigerated” tofu. It’s too smooth and it will definitely just come apart into little pieces during cooking. Not good.
So, most tofu comes in blocks. The block I buy is big enough to slice it in half, length-wise (along the thin side), so there are two thinner, wide blocks. Once I cut it, I “press” it. I press it by getting two baking sheets, each with wax paper, and place the slices on the bottom sheet, and top it with wax paper and another baking sheet. I use heavy books to put weight on it.
Here are the books I use; my husband’s university textbooks! Who knew they would be so useful!
As I said above, I put the slice tofu on a baking sheet with wax paper:
So, you put the tofu on that baking sheet and wax paper, then put wax paper on top with a baking sheet, and then put the weight books or your big bum on top of that. It’s best to let it press for 30 minutes to one hour. After that time you’ll see a pool of water that has been pressed out of the tofu. Just pick the tofu up and shake it a little to get as much water out as possible.
Once you’ve removed the water from the wax paper, baking sheet and tofu, you can put the tofu back on the baking sheet. In this case (the one I photographed), I didn’t do that. I thought that it would be easier to wrap the tofu in wax paper and put it in a tupperware container and freeze it. Don’t do that! I recommend just putting it back on the baking sheet and sliding it into the freezer. WHY? It’s best for it not to be covered so it dries out as much as possible. The more it dries out, the more porous it becomes which later translates into the tofu sucking up more of the spices. If you leave it exposes in the freezer for 3 days, it’ll become so dry that you may even wonder if it’s even good anymore… but in reality, it’s probably at it’s best point. The drier it becomes in the freezer, the better… so don’t cover it. Leave it exposed. It’ll become moist with the spices later, which is that much yummier.
This is my attempt at freezing the tofu with wax paper in a closed container. It may look good, but trust me, follow my instructions above!
You see, the wax paper stuck to the tofu, so I had to wait for it to defrost. You can also see the water frozen on it, and you really don’t want any moisture on it at all!
I separated the blocks, and this is what they looked like. I included my little friend, the egg timer, so you can get an idea of proportion/size. He’s my friend. Be nice.
In the photo before the one before the one above, you see three slices, but for the recipe you only need one block (two half pieces). I took each half piece and sliced it long-ways in three slices, then in the other direction, I sliced it in 5 pieces… making 15 blocks:
OK. Next part. Do you have your Rendang spice mix?
I know it says “Indonesian Beef Stew” but if you don’t put in any beef, then it won’t have beef… so it’ll be vegan!
Open it, and you’ll see the spice mix:
Exciting, isn’t it?
Now, you have to put the spice mix in a hot pot. Let it heat up just a little so it’s not a “stiff”, then throw in all the tofu. Mix it to make sure that all tofu is more or less covered by the spices.
Then open the can of coconut milk (light or normal) and pour it in. It’ll look like this:
Put the heat on high until it starts boiling or bubbling. You might want to half cover the pot so it doesn’t make a mess, but don’t fully cover it because it’ll keep the moisture in, and the whole point of the next few steps is that it dries out. Mix it a little during this process.
The mixture will start “reducing”. The whole process might take between 30 to 50 minutes.
It’ll look like this first.
And then it’ll come to a point when you start to see oil. That’s the oil/fat in the coconut milk. If you are using light coconut milk, you’ll probably see less. I personally haven’t used light coconut milk, so I am just imagining.
I am a bit picky about oils and fat, so at this stage, if I have the time, I just scoop out as much oil as I can. If you are not too fussy about calories, don’t bother. When you start to see the oil, it’s best to turn the heat down on the stove to medium. DO NOT mix to vigorously. At this point you have to be gentle with the mixing so that the spices don’t unstick from the tofu. I tend to just pick up the pot and shake it a little. Make sure you’re using a stick-free pot.
It have to just wait until there is practically no moisture left, without it burning. The whole point is to allow the spices to fully cook and stick to the tofu so that there is not sauce left in the pan… just pieces of tofu with spices completely stuck to them.
Now, if I had frozen the tofu properly (by drying it a whole lot), the spices would be more attached to the tofu than you see in the photo.
In all honesty, I was having a major sugar crash while cooking and photographing this and felt so depressed when I finished. On the good side, my husband was sooooo happy with the results. It’s his absolute favorite dish. He is completely vegetarian and goes over the moon when I cook this.
I know it looks like diarrhea, but it is the most delicious thing ever. The spice mix is what makes it wonderful. Maybe someday I’ll learn how to make it from scratch… but I might just leave that up to Bu Sriatun and others. When you cook this, your house will smell so delicious.
The great thing about this is that you can serve it cold. Cook it, eat a little, refrigerate what is left and just eat the rest without heating it up and it’s fine. As I said above, it’s GREAT hangover food too! Serve it with plain rice.
I took this photo, but before I took it I just had to eat some of it so excuse the dirty spoon.
And OMG, it’s vegan!
Let me know how it went if you cook it…. and this means you! (@veganrunnningmom & @disneyrunner on Twitter)