The history, ingredients, and reverence of rendang are as rich and savory as the dish itself, shares Afia R Fitriati.
Rendang is a popular spicy dish found in some countries in Southeast Asia. It is so popular, in fact, that it has become one of the must-serve dishes for festive occasions in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore. If you happen to visit a relative or friend in one of these countries during Eid ul Fitr, chances are that rendang will be one of the dishes on the table.
Check out these five unique facts about this succulent meat dish. How many do you already know?
- The origin of rendang can be traced back to the Minangkabau ethnic group from the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The Minangkabau people hold a reputation as skillful traders who frequently travel to other regions across the Indonesian archipelago and Asia. Dry rendang became a staple provision that kept well, and so merchants on their travels would bring it along with them, spreading the dish far and wide across the region.
- There are four basic ingredients in rendang, each with its own symbolic significance. The meat symbolizes revered leaders, the ‘meat’ of the community; coconut symbolizes teachers, poets, writers and other intellectual leaders who enrich a society; the heat of the chili is a symbol of the religious leaders whose duty it is to impose religious limits; finally, there are the spices, which symbolize the rest of society.
- In the traditional Minangkabau tradition, rendang refers to the dry, dark brown–colored form of the dish, which requires at least five hours of cooking on low to medium flame. The more soupy forms of rendang, commonly found in Malaysia and on the Indonesian island of Java amongst other places, are called ‘gulai’ or ‘kalio’ in their place of origin.
- The rich spices of rendang, which include garlic, shallot, ginger and galangal to name a few, are natural organic preservatives and have strong antimicrobial properties. That’s why a properly cooked dry rendang can last weeks at room temperature and up to six months in the refrigerator.
- Rendang was voted the world’s most delicious food in a CNN International online poll last year, beating fried chicken (number 31), chocolate (25), ice cream (15) and sushi (3).
A mix of rich, cultural heritage and famous tropical spices has created the legendary, complex-tasting dish of rendang. It is little wonder, then, that this curry-like delicacy is savored and praised across cultures, its popular reputation continuing to reign supreme.